Honolulu Chapter

Archive for 2012

 

The Sandy Hook tragedy. Scrooge atheists attacking recognition of the meaning of Christmas. Benghazi. Slip-sliding off the “Fiscal Cliff”. There is plenty of conflict and disappointment in the world today, and sometimes it seems as if God is missing. Yet if we step back and take a good look at our surroundings, evidence for His existence cannot be missed.

Take a short vacation from the turmoil of the world, and consider the implications of a beginning to the universe (which has become the nearly unanimous view in science and philosophy). The following is an excerpt from my ebook What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should), available for free HERE at Amazon.com until 12/23/2012. My thanks to the amazing William Lane Craig for helping me understand this:

Chapter One: The Cosmological Arguments

Cosmic Croissant?
Cosmic Croissant?
Photo credit:
NASA

 

Why is There Anything at All, Instead of Simply Nothing?

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing” — Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy).

“Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”–Stephen Hawking.

“Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’…”
— From Nothing from Nothing, by Billy Preston

Think about it; if there were no God, why would anything at all exist? There’s no necessity for it. One can imagine nothing at all ever existing. Philosophers have wrestled with the puzzle of why there is anything at all since the beginning of recorded history.

The deduction reached by top modern philosophers on this question is that things exist for two reasons: they are either necessary or they were caused. A great thinker named Gottfried Leibniz (the co-discoverer of Calculus) developed the following formulation of this:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the
necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God [what Leibniz seemed to mean by “God”, was “a timeless, personal, immaterial being of immense power.”]

3. The universe exists.

Now what follows logically from these three premises?
From 1 and 3 it logically follows that:

4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
And from 2 and 4 the conclusion logically follows:

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God. (1)
This is called “The Contingency Argument”. This is Argument # 1 for a transcendent Creator.

Now, the skeptical mind might ask, “but what if the universe was always here, eternally self-existent…the same way that most people see God as self-existent?” This is a fair question. Let’s look at what would be required if this were the case, and the evidence for and against this notion.

 

Continue reading…

What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) [Kindle Edition]

Click on the link to the right.

Also, you don’t need to own a Kindle to read it; free Kindle apps for most devices here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

The cool thing about Kindle is that you can tap on a word to get a definition.

The stubborn facts that spoiled Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday party:

It’s becoming harder to harder to dodge the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos

From the cosmic egg to the infinite multiverse, every model of the universe has a beginning

By Lisa Grossman © 2012, New Scientist

YOU could call them the worst birthday presents ever. At the meeting of minds convened last week to honour Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday–loftily titled “State of the Universe”–two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos.

One shows that a problematic object called a naked singularity is a lot more likely to exist than previously assumed (see “Black strings expose the naked singularity”, right). The other suggests that the universe is not eternal, resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator.

While many of us may be OK with the idea of the big bang simply starting everything, physicists, including Hawking, tend to shy away from cosmic genesis. “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God,” Hawking told the meeting, at the University of Cambridge, in a pre-recorded speech.

For a while it looked like it might be possible to dodge this problem, by relying on models such as an eternally inflating or cyclic universe, both of which seemed to continue infinitely in the past as well as the future. Perhaps surprisingly, these were also both compatible with the big bang, the idea that the universe most likely burst forth from an extremely dense, hot state about 13.7 billion years ago.

However, as cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston explained last week, that hope has been gradually fading and may now be dead. He showed that all these theories still demand a beginning.

His first target was eternal inflation. Proposed by Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981, inflation says that in the few slivers of a second after the big bang, the universe doubled in size thousands of times before settling into the calmer expansion we see today. This helped to explain why parts of the universe so distant that they could never have communicated with each other look the same.

Eternal inflation is essentially an expansion of Guth’s idea, and says that the universe grows at this breakneck pace forever, by constantly giving birth to smaller “bubble” universes within an ever-expanding multiverse, each of which goes through its own initial period of inflation. Crucially, some versions of eternal inflation applied to time as well as space, with the bubbles forming both backwards and forwards in time (see diagram, right).

But in 2003, a team including Vilenkin and Guth considered what eternal inflation would mean for the Hubble constant, which describes mathematically the expansion of the universe.

They found that the equations didn’t work (Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/physrevlett.90.151301). “You can’t construct a space-time with this property,” says Vilenkin. It turns out that the constant has a lower limit that prevents inflation in both time directions. “It can’t possibly be eternal in the past,” says Vilenkin. “There must be some kind of boundary.”

Not everyone subscribes to eternal inflation, however, so the idea of an eternal universe still had a foothold. Another option is a cyclic universe, in which the big bang is not really the beginning but more of a bounce back following a previous collapsed universe. The universe goes through infinite cycles of big bangs and crunches with no specific beginning. Cyclic universes have an “irresistible poetic charm and bring to mind the Phoenix”, says Vilenkin, quoting Georges Lemaître, an astronomer who died in 1966. Yet when he looked at what this would mean for the universe’s disorder, again the figures didn’t add up.

Disorder increases with time. So following each cycle, the universe must get more and more disordered. But if there has already been an infinite number of cycles, the universe we inhabit now should be in a state of maximum disorder. Such a universe would be uniformly lukewarm and featureless, and definitely lacking such complicated beings as stars, planets and physicists–nothing like the one we see around us.

One way around that is to propose that the universe just gets bigger with every cycle. Then the amount of disorder per volume doesn’t increase, so needn’t reach the maximum. But Vilenkin found that this scenario falls prey to the same mathematical argument as eternal inflation: if your universe keeps getting bigger, it must have started somewhere.

Vilenkin’s final strike is an attack on a third, lesser-known proposal that the cosmos existed eternally in a static state called the cosmic egg. This finally “cracked” to create the big bang, leading to the expanding universe we see today. Late last year Vilenkin and graduate student Audrey Mithani showed that the egg could not have existed forever after all, as quantum instabilities would force it to collapse after a finite amount of time (arxiv.org/abs/1110.4096). If it cracked instead, leading to the big bang, then this must have happened before it collapsed–and therefore also after a finite amount of time.

“This is also not a good candidate for a beginningless universe,” Vilenkin concludes. “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”

It wasn’t always here

~~~~~~~~

By Lisa Grossman

By William Lane Craig

The American Humanist Association is promoting a new Web site that is designed to furnish children with a naturalistic or atheistic perspective on science, sexuality, and other topics. The stated goal of the Web site is laudatory: “to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance among young people, as well as to provide accurate information regarding a wide range of issues related to humanism, science, culture, and history.”

The problem is that those values have no inherent connection with naturalism, which is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that there is nothing beyond the physical contents of the universe. One doesn’t need to be a naturalist in order to endorse curiosity, critical thinking, tolerance, and the pursuit of accurate information on a wide range of topics.

Ironically, the AHA has been remarkably uncritical in thinking about the truth of naturalism and of humanism in particular.

For example, why think that naturalism is true? The last half century has witnessed a veritable renaissance of Christian philosophy. In a recent article, University of Western Michigan philosopher Quentin Smithlaments “the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s.” Complaining of naturalists’ passivity in the face of the wave of “intelligent and talented theists entering academia today,” Smith concludes, “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”

This renaissance of Christian philosophy has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone, apart from the resources of divine revelation like the Bible. All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.

But what about the so-called “New Atheism” exemplified by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens? Doesn’t it signal a reversal of this trend? Not really. The New Atheism is, in fact, a pop cultural phenomenon lacking in intellectual muscle and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in academic philosophy. In my debates with naturalistic philosophers and scientists I have been frankly stunned by their inability both to refute the various arguments for God and to provide any persuasive arguments for naturalism.

Moreover, naturalism faces severe problems of its own. The philosopherAlvin Plantinga has argued persuasively that naturalism cannot even be rationally affirmed. For if naturalism was true, the probability that our cognitive faculties would be reliable is pretty low. For those faculties have been shaped by a process of natural selection which does not select for truth but merely for survival. There are many ways in which an organism could survive without its beliefs’ being true. Hence, if naturalism were true, we could not have any confidence that our beliefs are true, including the belief in naturalism itself! Thus, naturalism seems to have a built-in defeater that renders it incapable of being rationally affirmed.

The problem for the humanist is even worse, however. For humanism is just one form of naturalism. It is a version of naturalism that affirms the objective value of human beings. But why think that if naturalism were true, human beings would have objective moral value? There are three options before us:

• The theist maintains that objective moral values are grounded in God.

• The humanist maintains that objective moral values are grounded in human beings.

• The nihilist maintains that moral values are ungrounded and therefore ultimately subjective and illusory.

Continue reading… 

Marco Rubio has been (unfairly) criticized for expressing openness to the possibility of a young-earth position in an interview with GQ the other day. Although I think he actually did well for somebody who hasn’t studied the issue (he was non-committal, and referenced the truism that “theologians disagree” about it), his answer almost guaranteed that he will be badgered about this later by pundits looking for a “sound bite”.

Having studied this subject for years, I’d suggest Rubio look into old-earth creationism as the viewpoint best supported by all the data (including the stunning degree of mathematical impossibility for unguided Darwinism, and the original Hebrew text of Genesis), and perhaps he’ll have a more precise answer next time. The following are some reasons that I think old-earth creationism (OEC) is a more plausible view than young-earth creationism (YEC). And for the record, even with a 4.5 billion-year-old earth, Darwinism is still more than 24 million orders of magnitude short of the time it needs to be plausible:

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio
Photo credit:
Steve Pope/Getty Images

1) The Hebrew words “yom”, “ereb” and “boqer” — typically translated in Genesis 1 as “day”, “morning” and “evening” can mean several different things. “Yom” is used to denote 58 different time periods in the Old Testament; only 1 of them is “a 24 hr. day”. In the Mosaic Hebrew of the time, “yom” was the only existing word that could possibly signify “long period of time”. It is clearly translated as “indefinite finite period” many times in the Old Testament. “Ereb” and “Boqer” can also mean “beginning” and “ending”, as opposed to “morning and evening”.

2) Psalm 19 says that “creation speaks”. In Acts chapter 10 verse 18 and on, Paul reiterates this. Dozens of dating techniques from different scientific disciplines indicate a roughly 4.5 billion year-old earth with no substantial variation. Leaving aside YEC junk science peddlers (who are often steered by the ungrounded assumption that God guarded the translation process of Hebrew into English), why would God have allowed creation to unanimously contradict scripture when measured via radiometric dating, tree rings, ice rings, coral reefs, etc.?

3) 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says “Test everything and hold on to the good”. He didn’t say “Test everything except creation”. Long before the English Language even existed, ancient Jews and church fathers (including Augustine) expressed that these “yoms” should not be considered 24 hour days. If they were open to it without specific dating data, shouldn’t we be even more so with all the supportive dating techniques we have at our disposal?

4) Some folks get hung up about the 4th day in Genesis (because English translations typically seem to indicate that this is when the sun, moon and stars were made), but the Hebrew actually says that God “had made” the sun, stars, and moon (correlating with out past perfect tense); not that He “made them on” the 4th day. Genesis one is written from the perspective of earth’s surface, and many scholars believe the pervasive initial volcanic haze cleared during this epoch, thus allowing the celestial bodies to come into view for the first time (“14 Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so..”).

5) Some claim that Exodus 20: 11 proves YEC: (“For in six yoms the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh yom; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath yom and made it holy”). But a perfectly good translation of Ex. 20 is that “God made the heavens and the earth [etc.] in 6 periods; then He rested in the 7th period. Therefore the Lord blessed the 7th period and declared it holy.” Even though creation is being compared to the work week, there is no warrant for constricting the referent periods down to days. The point seems to be: “for every six periods of work, I want you to have one period of rest — just as I did”. In fact, Hebrews 4 shows that the 7th day is ongoing now (6 “Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,”). So in a roundabout way this supports creation “yoms” as “long periods” viewpoint, because the 7th day is clearly much longer than 24 hours.

6) Flood Geology (the related, overarching translation of Genesis which includes the later flood narrative, and erroneously supposes a worldwide flood made everything look old) requires two huge influxes of Darwinian type macro-evolution; 1) to make carnivores after the fall, and 2) to go from 30,000 or less species right after the flood, to well over 100 million (some estimate 5 billion!) that have now existed. This militates against the very argument they try to make — unless YEC’s hold that God intervened to make carnivores, which seems kind of odd, given their default view of carnivorous activity (that it’s a result of sin). (1)

7) The most vociferous YEC product-peddlers are frequently beholden to Calvinism, isolationism and other warped ideas, so we should be careful to “consider the source”.

NOTABLE CHRISTIANS OPEN TO AN OLD-UNIVERSE, OLD-EARTH PERSPECTIVE

The following individuals—respected authors, Bible scholars, scientists, pastors, linguists, and more—hold to a diversity of views on the timing of God’s creation. And yet all have affirmed, in documented sources, that an ancient universe and Earth (including big bang cosmology) pose no threat to Christian orthodoxy, but rather may be considered plausible and valid interpretations, even literal interpretations, of the biblical text. Not one of these sees the question of age as a crucial doctrinal issue, so a YEC viewpoint should certainly NOT be considered crucial for salvation):

John Ankerberg
Gleason Archer
John Battle
Michael Behe
William Jennings Bryan
Walter Bradley
Jack Collins
Chuck Colson
Paul Copan
William Lane Craig
Norman Geisler
Robert Godfrey
Guillermo Gonzales
Hank Hannegraff
Jack Hayford
Fred Heeren
Charles Hodge
Walter Kaiser
Greg Koukl
C. S. Lewis
Paul Little
Patricia Mondore
J. P. Moreland
Robert Newman
Greg Neyman
Mark Noll
Nancy Pearcey
Perry Phillips
William Phillips
Mike Poole
Bernard Ramm
Jay Richards
Hugh Ross
Fritz Schaefer
Francis Schaeffer
C. I. Scofield
Chuck Smith Jr. and Sr.
David Snoke
Lee Strobel
Ken Taylor
B. B. Warfield

 

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On John Adams

Continuing with the final subject in my series on the most influential of America‘s founders, here are some quotes from John Adams either from our founding period (1776-1789) or referring back to it:

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were … the general principles ofChristianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. — Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 28 June 1813.

I think Neil Abercrombie copied his hairstyle.
I think Neil Abercrombie copied his hairstyle.
Photo credit:
Public Domain image

Let them revere nothing but religion, morality and liberty.
— Letter to Abigail Adams (15 April 1776)

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.
— Letter to Zabdiel Adams (21 June 1776)

I am surprised at the suddenness as well as the greatness of this revolution… It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.
— Letter to Abigail Adams (3 July 1776)

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.
— Letter to Abigail Adams (3 July 1776)

Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.
— Letter to Abigail Adams (27 April 1777)

In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity…

— Opening line of the 1783 Treaty of Paris (with England, ending the Revolutionary War), which Adams crafted alongside Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shall not covet,” and “Thou shall not steal,” are not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.
— Ch. 1 Marchamont Nedham : The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth Examined, 1787

The new Government has my best Wishes and most fervent Prayers, for its Success and Prosperity: but whether I shall have any Thing more to do with it, besides praying for it, depends on the future suffrages of Freemen.
— Letter to Thomas Jefferson (2 January 1789)

 

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Original U.S. Constitution
Original U.S. Constitution
Credits:
Public Domain image

James Madison, like several other founding fathers, wrote some things that didn’t sound very Christian later in his life, but during the founding was solidly Christian. As any good judge will tell you, the meaning of civil agreements like constitutions depends on what the writers intended at the time they wrote it, however; not on what they wrote thirty years later. Here are just a few of Madison’s many quotes or actions from just before or during our founding that demonstrate his Christianity during that time-frame:

“A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven” — In a letter to William Bradford.

In another letter to Bradford:

I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.

And in another: “So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience to all.” (emphasis mine).

As a member of the committee that authored the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, Madison approved of its paragraphs declaring that:

In this state of extreme danger we have no alternative left, but an abject submission to the will of those overbearing tyrants, or a total separation from the crown and Government of Great Britain, uniting and exerting the strength of all America for defence, and forming alliances with foreign powers for commerce and aid in war: wherefore, appealing to the Searcher Of Hearts, for the sincerity of former declarations expressing our desire to preserve the connexion with that nation, and that we are driven from that inclination by their wicked councils, and the eternal laws of self-preservation; (emphasis mine).

“Searcher Of Hearts” is a reference to Romans 8: 27, which reads: “…and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God“.

Also contained in that document is the following:

“That Religion, or the duty which we owe to our CREATOR, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence: and therefore, that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished, and unrestrained by the magistrate, unless under colour of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or safety of Society. And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1789, Madison served on the Congressional committee which authorized, approved, and selected paid Congressional chaplains.

Madison’s original proposed wording for the First Amendment shows that he opposed only the establishment of a federal denomination, not public religious activities. His proposal declared that “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall anynational religion be established.” (emphasis mine). Madison reemphasized his position on this throughout the debates.

It was unnecessary to use the words “In the year of Our Lord” when writing dates (we have many examples from that time without it), but there in the Constitution which Madison wrote, we see “Seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty [sic] seven”. (emphasis mine).

From a speech in the Virginia Convention:

I most earnestly pray that America may have sufficient wisdom to avail herself of the instructive information she may derive from a contemplation of the sources of their misfortunes, and that she may escape a similar fate by avoiding the causes from which their infelicity sprung. (emphasis mine).

From MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE AGAINST RELIGIOUS ASSESSMENTS: “Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.” and…

Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself; for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them; and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence, and the ordinary care of Providence: Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence, and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies, to trust it to its own merits.

 

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Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a Christian during the founding of the United States, but experimented with other religions (such as Deism) during other times of his life. His writings at these other times have apparently confused people like Richard Dawkins and Mitch Kahle into assuming this means the U.S. is a “secular nation”. Yet it’s really not that hard to check the dates on the various writings (which lots of scholars have done), and once that is done, a clear picture emerges.

Franklin was one of five men appointed to the committee to draft The Declaration of Independence on June 11, 1776. The others were Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and John Adams of Massachusetts. The Declaration mentionsGod four times (“Nature’s God”, “Creator”, “Divine Providence”, and “the Supreme Judge of the World”), and drew inspiration from John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government (1690), and George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights(1776), and possibly the Mecklenburg Resolves penned by the Mecklenburg (N.C.) Presbyterians (1775); three clearly Christian sources. This obviously not the god of Deism, which has no plans for, or interaction with the world and the people in it.

Notice the pillar of fire (Shekinah Glory) and Moses leading Israelites through the Red Sea as Pharoah's soldiers drown. Not very Deistic!
Notice the pillar of fire (Shekinah Glory) and Moses leading Israelites through the Red Sea as Pharoah’s soldiers drown. Not very Deistic!
Photo credit:
Public Domain image

The Great Seal of the United States

Also on July 4, 1776, Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams “to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America.” Franklin’s proposal for the seal adapted the biblical story of the parting of the Red Sea. Jefferson first recommended the “Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by Day, and a Pillar of Fire by night. . . .” He then embraced Franklin’s proposal and rewrote it. Jefferson’s revision of Franklin’s proposal was presented by the committee to Congress on August 20. It’s hard to imagine why non-religious people would do such things. Although not ultimately accepted, these drafts reveal the religious temper of the Revolutionary period. Franklin and Jefferson were among the most theologically liberal of the Founders, yet they used biblical imagery for this important task.

The Articles of Confederation was the name of America’s first national constitution. Ben Franklin first proposed the idea, and was one of its primary writers. The Articles were presented to the Continental Congress for the various colonies to consider on Nov. 15, 1777. The thirteenth state, Maryland, finally ratified the document on March 1, 1781. The Articles rest on the clear belief that God is the Sovereign administrator of the world, as these excerpts show (emphases mine):

Whereas the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the 15th day of November in the Year of Our Lord One thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-seven, and in the Second Year of the Independence of America, agree on certain articles of confederation and perpetual Union between the States (Art. 1). . . . And whereas it has pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union….(Conclusion).

The Articles of Confederation closes in the same fashion that it opened: “Done at Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July, in the Year of our Lord. . . .” It’s difficult to see how a Deist (or a secular person) would ever have described God as “the Great Governor of the world”, or believe that He could or would move an individual’s heart to do anything.

In 1782, as the Revolutionary War was approaching its end, Ben Franklin, John Jay and John Adams were sent to France to attempt to secure terms of peace with England. Three documents were drafted in succession: Preliminary Articles of Peace, Provisional Articles of Peace and The Treaty of Paris, all of which had clear Christian references. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, for example, begins with the following words (emphases mine):

In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.
It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith

In the constitutional convention of 1787, disagreements threatened to derail the entire process. Ben Franklin finally had enough, and stood to speak, saying the following:

Mr. President

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other,”our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

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The Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial
Credits:
Alex Wong/Getty Images

While we were milling around prior to the Richard Dawkins speech I wrote about in part one, I spotted Mitch Kahle, probably Oahu’s most publicity-seeking atheist (seen herebeing marched/dragged out of the Hawaii State Capital after interrupting opening prayers in 2010). Mitch has an intolerant organization called “Hawaii Citizens for The Separation of Church and State”. I view him as Oahu’s Madelyn Murray O Hair.

I had already challenged him to debate the existence of God online, but he never responded. I asked him if he’d like to have a friendly debate whether or not God existed — he didn’t care for the idea. “How about Darwinism” I asked him. He said that’s “not his specialty” either. I was surprised; he never seems this timid on either subject when he has a monologue, but I guess the idea of equal time for an opposing viewpoint is frightening to him. He eventually suggested “separation of church and state”. “Sounds good” I answered, then gave him my card and asked him to let me know when is a good time (stay tuned – I’ll give a shout-out when we have a time frame).

To be clear, I’m not representing any organization in any debate; just the truth. Nor is my goal to grandstand or be argumentative. I’ve done my homework on this, and in my eyes, arguing that America‘s founders were secular is like arguing that the sun is cold — it ought to be resisted (even by those who like the idea) because it’s false.

Another point of clarity: nobody is talking about Christianity in our heritage being enforced as a belief system (nobody can be forced to believe something apart from evidence and reason). The phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the founding documents of the United States, and was not intended as the likes of Dawkins and Kahle wish it had been. Context shows that what Jefferson meant by “wall of separation” in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists (long after America’s founding) was roughly the same thing as Roger Williams meant by it in his sermon “The Garden and the Wilderness” (which is where Jefferson got the quote) – our gov’t was to be walled off from oppressing the church (it’s a one-way wall).

 

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Great Seal prototype. Translation: "With God's Favor".

Great Seal prototype. Translation: “With God’s Favor, Forever”.
Credits:
Public Domain

A friend invited me to see atheism evangelistRichard Dawkins speak at Aloha Tower the other day. At some point while we were sitting there, I read the flier for the event, which falsely claimed America had had a secular founding. “This is amazing!” I thought to myself; “just last night at another presentation somebody was trying to convince me that ourFounding Fathers were Illuminati devil-worshippers! How cool it is that # 1) we have tons of documentation of their self-understanding as Christians, # 2) the freemasonry that a small fraction of them were involved with was then simply a mens’ club, and had none of the sketchy features which crept into it later, and # 3) the Deism (a type of Theism where God doesn’t interact with His creation) that a few of them got into at other times was not something they believed during our founding!”

In the Q&A after his talk, I asked Dawkins if he still holds to the (now-discredited) cosmogenic theory of Lawrence Krauss, which Krauss proudly presented in his recent book A Universe From Nothing.

I figured Dawkins might try to defend it, since he wrote atypically overconfident afterward for the book, in which he claims that “nothingness is unstable”, so naturally a universe will spontaneously pop out of it! Well, apparently somebody explained to him that Krauss had been dancing back-and-forth between several different definitions of “nothing” in his book (only one of which was truly nothing), because he began his answer with “Well, I’m not a physicist, but…”.

 

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Steve Williams

9/15/12

I’m not the first to write on the following couple of points, but it seems to me that they are important enough to be re-surfaced every so often for the sake of clarity on the subject of intelligent design (or “Intelligent Design”, as the case may be).

 

Advocates of Intelligent Design are frequently met with the objection: “It’s not science!” in discussions with proponents of Darwinism (occasionally delivered in a smugly triumphant tone), but in most cases this rebuttal is trivial, and in some cases it’s downright inaccurate. Given the fact that the majority of the science education community in America has bought into a couple of modal logical errors entangled with this show-stopper, let’s take a look and see if we can’t find some useful clarity on it. Btw, “modal” in this case concerns properly categorizing propositions in terms of their possibility and necessity.

 

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “science” as follows:

knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method and concerned with the physical world and its phenomena

The same describes “intelligent design” as follows:

the theory that matter, the various forms of life, and the world were created by a designing intelligence

 

Notice that the modern definition of “science” given above is not the broad “search for truth” that historical figures like Pascal and Newton understood it to mean. The modern definition has been reduced to only include general truths concerning the physical world, which by definition excludes special acts of supernatural intervention from consideration as possible causes.

 

Now let’s shift gears and think about intelligent design for a moment. If we sit back and reflect on it, we’ll recall that there are a host of modern scientific disciplines that seek to show whether or not some form of non-supernatural intelligent design has been exercised. These include things like SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which looks for intelligently designed signals sent by other creatures in the universe), Forensics, Cryptology, and Archaeology. Therefore, the descriptive intelligent design – without any further reduction on its definition – may very well be part of science. In modal logical terms, it’s possible.

 

For further clarification, let’s look at the latitude of the term “intelligent design” by way of a brief thought experiment. Suppose that say, Richard Dawkins’ fantasies (which he expressed in the movie Expelled) about aliens having seeded life here on earth using nothing but natural means are proven using scientific methods. If that were the case, then the above definition of “intelligent design” has been met. In this case, the definitions for both “science” and “intelligent design” have been met in one scenario – voila!

 

Now on the other hand, what if we are discussing the wisdom of mere open-mindedness to a supernatural form of Intelligent Design? Well, it’s correct to say that it’s “not science” on the modern reductive definition, but in terms of its truth-value, it’s not basket-weaving either; who cares? This foreground discussion is frequently (at least indirectly) couched as part of a background interest in the old-school definition of science – the search for truth. In an open-minded search for truth, we don’t rule things out a priori (“from the outset”) unless they are logically impossible (like a married bachelor). So whether or not it is “science” on the modern definition – which excludes it by definition — is trivial.

 

As for the common assumption that the supernatural is impossible, the main thing that demonstrates, I think, is how ideas have “inertia” within culture. There has been a concerted effort (originating, in substantial part, in Europe) to promote materialist assumptions in American academia for decades, but the trend among professional thinkers (philosophers) has gone in the opposite direction. Once the world of philosophy divorced itself from temporary flirtations with self-refuting methodologies like Verificationism about 50 years ago, Theism therein has grown to the point where it’s booming.

 

The history of Western thought going back at least as far as Hume is littered with the shards of supposed proofs (in principle) against the mere possibility of the existence of the supernatural. All have sooner or later been shown to be flawed, if not downright incoherent. The incredible evidence that has emerged in recent decades (up to and including the Higgs-Boson particle) supporting the past-finite Standard Model of Big Bang Cosmology has eviscerated the last strands of plausibility in past-eternal universe models.

 

In a universe that suddenly sprang into existence from the non-physical, proving that the supernatural is impossible is a pretty tall order. As Greg Koukl puts it, “Big Bangs need a Big Banger”, and the latter is by definition (one might say by necessity), supernatural. The fact that leading Darwinists have admitted that evolution from a single-celled organism to human beings without supernatural intervention is millions of orders of magnitude beyond what is mathematically possible (see Who Was Adam, Rana and Ross, p. 153) only super-sizes the order.

 

So to reiterate, if the supernatural is artificially removed from consideration at the outset (as it is in the modern definition of science), then the conclusions reached are necessarily dubious as to whether the supernatural is possible.

 

Maybe what any given set of scholars are studying is purely natural, maybe it isn’t, but if they’re using the modern definition of science they’ll never know, because the supernatural wasn’t included in their “pool of live options” as possible causal agents to begin with. That’s not to say that science cannot provide us with an incredible amount of useful facts – it can and does – but it should not be confused with the study of what is ultimately real…the branch of philosophy known as “Metaphysics”.

 

To reiterate, modern science is a small subset of the search for truth which – due to its own definition – must remain agnostic on whether or not the supernatural exists. Making this sort of determination is not within its ken, even within a public school classroom. If students are not allowed to determine for themselves whether or not supernatural intelligent design can ever be inferred, then they are being denied a segment of their intellectual sovereignty…whether or not the courts ever catch up with that fact.

 

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that one should necessarily take a stand on this point in the classroom. In college, I got fed up with having only the choices of: a) Darwinism, b) Darwinism, c) Darwinism, and d) Darwinism as answers to certain questions, and I made a small one. I may have suffered a grade reduction as a consequence — your mileage may vary. My interest is at the moment is in rightly dividing the definitions; when and where to hold the line is a separate question.

 

If individuals with whom we are engaged in this discussion insist on this sort of arbitrary exclusion (once properly identified) being applied to metaphysics as if the subset controls the set, we should be careful about how much more time we ought to dedicate to them on it. It’s been my experience that some are simply downright incapable (or pretend to be incapable) of grasping it. It has been my experience however, that if I contrast the old definition of science with the modern one at the outset of the discussion in writing, at least some of my adversaries will concede that the latter has no business making metaphysical adjudications only appropriate to the former. And in at least a few occasions, they have seemed quite relieved to have been disencumbered of their confusion on this issue.

Casey Luskin September 5, 2012 4:08 PM | Permalink

squirrelemptytrashcan.jpg

A groundbreaking paper in Nature reports the results of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, which has detected evidence of function for the “vast majority” of the human genome. Titled “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” the paper finds an “unprecedented number of functional elements,” where “a surprisingly large amount of the human genome” appears functional. Based upon current knowledge, the paper concludes that at least 80% of the human genome is now known to be functional:

The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification. These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions. Many discovered candidate regulatory elements are physically associated with one another and with expressed genes, providing new insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation. 

(The ENCODE Project Consortium, “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” Nature, Vol. 489:57-74 (September 6, 2012) (emphasis added))

In the past we’ve frequently read about studies reporting function for many thousands of base pairs (see here or here for a few of many examples), but it’s often hard to get a sense of just how much of the genome has had function detected for it. Through the collaboration of hundreds of researchers, the ENCODE project determined that “The vast majority (80.4%) of the human genome participates in at least one biochemical RNA- and/or chromatin-associated event in at least one cell type.” As discussed further below, Tom Gingeras, a senior scientist with the ENCODE project, contends in an interview that “[a]lmost every nucleotide is associated with a function.” 

“Surprisingly Large” Amount of the Human Genome is Functional

The ENCODE paper divides up functional genomic elements into major categories: RNA transcribed regions, protein-coding regions, transcription-factor-binding sites, chromatin structure, and DNA methylation sites. After analyzing all of these different kinds of genomic elements, the project found:

Accounting for all these elements, a surprisingly large amount of the human genome, 80.4%, is covered by at least one ENCODE-identified element. The broadest element class represents the different RNA types, covering 62% of the genome (although the majority is inside of introns or near genes). Regions highly enriched for histone modifications form the next largest class (56.1%). Excluding RNA elements and broad histone elements, 44.2% of the genome is covered. Smaller proportions of the genome are occupied by regions of open chromatin (15.2%) or sites of transcription factor binding (8.1%), with 19.4% covered by at least one DHS or transcription factor ChIP-seq peak across all cell lines. (internal citations removed)

In addition to finding 863 pseudogenes that are “transcribed and associated with active chromatin,” the paper reports that nearly all of the genome is found near a functional DNA element: “A total of 99% of the known bases in the genome are within 1.7 kb of any ENCODE element.” 

“Non-Conserved” No Longer Implies “Non-Functional”

As we’ve discussed here on ENV before, molecular biologists often infer function for non-coding DNA by finding the sequence is “conserved” or “constrained” (i.e. similar) across diverse species, implying there is some kind of selectable function preventing it from accumulating mutations. But if a sequence is not conserved or constrained (i.e. it’s different) across different species, does that imply it’s not functional? The ENCODE paper asked this question, and found the answer is “no”:

Primate-specific elements as well as elements without detectable mammalian constraint show, in aggregate, evidence of negative selection; thus, some of them are expected to be functional

Later the paper found that within primates, unconserved sequences may be very important for determining body form:

There are also a large number of elements without mammalian constraint, between 17% and 90% for transcription-factor binding regions as well as DHSs and FAIRE regions. Previous studies could not determine whether these sequences are either biochemically active, but with little overall impact on the organism, or under lineage specific selection. By isolating sequences preferentially inserted into the primate lineage, which is only feasible given the genome-wide scale of this data, we are able to examine this issue specifically. … [A]n appreciable proportion of the unconstrained elements are lineage-specific elements required for organismal function, consistent with long-standing views of recent evolution, and the remainder are probably “neutral” elements that are not currently under selection but may still affect cellular or larger scale phenotypes without an effect on fitness. (internal citations omitted)

And of course, if a genetic element affects “cellular or larger scale phenotypes,” then clearly those elements have function as well. 

Findings are “Unprecedented”

The paper concludes that researchers have uncovered an “unprecedented number of functional elements”:

The unprecedented number of functional elements identified in this study provides a valuable resource to the scientific community as well as significantly enhances our understanding of the human genome.

They also make the obvious conclusion that much more of the genome appears to be involved in regulation processes than producing biochemically active proteins:

Interestingly, even using the most conservative estimates, the fraction of bases likely to be involved in direct gene regulation, even though incomplete, is significantly higher than that ascribed to protein coding exons (1.2%), raising the possibility that more information in the human genome may be important for gene regulation than for biochemical function.

And of course, the implications of this study for fighting disease are profound:

The broad coverage of ENCODE annotations enhances our understanding of common diseases with a genetic component, rare genetic diseases, and cancer, as shown by our ability to link otherwise anonymous associations to a functional element.

Junk DNA Will Be “Consigned to the History Books” 

The news media have picked up on this story, with headlines like “Breakthrough study overturns theory of ‘junk DNA’ in genome” (UK Guardian) or “Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role” (NY Times). These articles frankly acknowledge the implications for the old “junk DNA” notion:

  • “Long stretches of DNA previously dismissed as “junk” are in fact crucial to the way our genome works, an international team of scientists said on Wednesday. … For years, the vast stretches of DNA between our 20,000 or so protein-coding genes — more than 98% of the genetic sequence inside each of our cells — was written off as “junk” DNA. Already falling out of favor in recent years, this concept will now, with Encode’s work, be consigned to the history books.” (Alok Jha, “Breakthrough study overturns theory of ‘junk DNA’ in genome,” UK Guardian (September 5, 2012))
  • “The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as ‘junk’ but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches. … Human DNA is ‘a lot more active than we expected, and there are a lot more things happening than we expected,’ said Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, a lead researcher on the project.” (Gina Kolata, “Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role,”New York Times (September 5, 2012))

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The fishes, the cat’s, or God’s?
Credits:
Steve Williams and http://www.wpclipart.com
The fishes, the cat's, or God's?

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

Below is the ninth excerpt from my new bookWhat Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see the other parts of this article, go HERE:

Regarding B) above [referenced in part 8], it’s self-refuting! If there is no free will, then Hawking and Mlodonow didn’t write this book on the basis of reason, but rather simply because their internal chemistry compelled them to. The arrangement of that internal chemistry, on this viewpoint, was nothing more than an accident. For all we know, their internal chemistry could have compelled them to write stultifying nonsense and pass it off as a scientific book (whoops – self-referential echo chamber! ;^). On this viewpoint then, nothing in it can be taken seriously. How this one got past the editor, I’ll never figure out.

Regarding C) above, once again, this is relativism. They use the illustration of a goldfish looking out of its bowl and seeing a distorted world, as contrasted with humans looking into the bowl at the fish.

In using the phrases “model-dependent reality” or “observer-dependent reality” however, the authors reveal bias and possibly, confusion. Nearly everyone knows that the perspective of any creature can be distorted, and is therefore “subjective”. But consider the picture above; is it the “reality” that is observer-dependent (or model-dependent), or is it the perspective? Perspectives are certainly observer dependent – in the case above, both the cat and the fish see a distorted image of one another — but reality is not (otherwise there would have been no reality prior to the first creature, but who believes that?).

The law of non-contradiction says that for any given proposition “P”, the contradictory proposition “not P” cannot simultaneously be true. Is the cat’s perspective “C” (which we can see is warped in a convex fashion by the glass) true, the goldfish’s “G” (which we see is warped in a concave fashion by the glass), or neither? Since they don’t match, if the cat’s is true, then that of the goldfish must be false. If that of the goldfish is true, then the cat’s must be false. We tend to think that our human viewpoint is correct, but it’s possible that something we’re unaware of is warping our perspective as well.

Now if God is omniscient, His perspective is true, understands all subjective viewpoints, and meets the definition of “objective”, even if all other opinions are subjective. Hawking and Mlodonow seem to want to smuggle in the presupposition that there is no objective reality, and hence, no God. As I have noticed time and time again, their worldview seems to be steered by what they want to believe, rather than being steered by the truth into the best inference. I see no reason to accept either their stated or implied worldviews based on the incoherent flailings in this book.

As I was finishing this chapter, a new book called A Universe From Nothing making claims similar to Hawking’s was released by an atheist physicist named Lawrence Krauss. A brief word on that seems warranted: I’ve read several reviews, and listened to several podcasts critiquing it, and predictably, he follows the same pattern set by Hawking of dancing back and forth between different definitions of “nothing” (“non-being” vs. a fluctuating quantum field that “might as well be nothing”). Also predictably, he makes freshman philosophical mistakes while bad-mouthing philosophy and theology frequently throughout the book. The reviewers (Dr. David Albert and Dr. William Lane Craig) were not impressed.

In Science, predictability tells us a great deal about the nature of matter and energy. In disciplines like Theology, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology, predictability tells us a great deal about the nature of people. Some of the laws of nature we notice in Science, like inertia, seem to have corollaries in creaturely behavior. Various types of animals, for example, will stampede over a cliff for no more reason than that they assume that the leaders (and consequently, the pack) are heading in a good direction. It behooves us all to pay close attention where we can, and resist parallel phenomena with regard to our human “leaders”.

Hawking at Universal Studios
Credits:
Universal Studios Hollywood via Getty Images
Hawking at Universal Studios

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

Below is the eighth excerpt from my new book What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see the other parts of this article, go HERE:

Because abstract concepts can be slippery, bear with me while I address several of the more important claims the authors make once again in different wording:

A) miracles are impossible (20).
B) there is no free will (everything is pre-determined) (21), and
C) objective reality doesn’t exist (all reality is observer-dependent) (22).

On item A), as I alluded to earlier in this chapter, Hawking seems to have bought into (or is otherwise beholden to) a fairly common error. This error is in assuming that the definition of “Science” (i.e.; methods of determining facts about the natural world that, for the sake of methodological purity, presuppose that nature is all that exists) extends to all of ontic reality (all which actually DOES exist, including, but not limited to, nature).

In other words, instead of recognizing that the empirical rules of science make it necessarily incomplete (because by definition, it can form no metaphysical opinions), they blunder forward on the assumption that it includes everything. This confusion becomes obvious when somebody tries to shut down discussions of things like intelligent design by saying “it’s not science!”

One can readily admit that not all possible explanations of many things (whether abstract, material or immaterial) are “science”, but that does not mean much because science is a very limited discipline. What the person frequently intends to express when they say things like this is: “it’s not logical!” But of course, logic is a far broader discipline than narrow science, so this is a misuse of the term “science”.

The term “science” used to be simply the search for truth, as great minds of the past such as Newton, Boyle and Kepler used it, but the term has evolved in the past several hundred years. Again, the common modern definition does not allow for the consideration of the supernatural, under any circumstances. If everything in life were fair, this change would have added an asterisk/notation onto every deduction thereafter in science, much like sports records have for marks achieved under different rules. The appurtenant notation could say something like: *Post-“Naturalistic Assumptions”.

Many otherwise fairly educated folks (including some scientists!) don’t even know this limitation about the term, and it results in the comical spectre of some of them actually arguing that they believe in “nothing but science”. “Really?” one could answer. “No love, no memories, no poetry, no fun; nothing but what you can prove scientifically?

Hypothetically speaking, a 300-foot-tall Yahweh could suddenly appear in front of an assembly of these folks in the lab, playing bass and singing The HalleluJah Chorus with Jesus at His side on keyboard and The Holy Ghost on drums, and if they were consistent, they would have to deny that they are seeing it because “it’s not science” (props to Tom Wolfe for the metaphor). I guess it would probably be written off as a hallucination.

As strange as it seems, the sustained use of the scientific method (the seeds of which, ironically, came from the Bible) has led to the common misunderstanding that the supernatural cannot possibly exist. Most professional thinkers (Philosophers) understand that the supernatural cannot be ruled out by such feeble reasoning, however, as “absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence”, among other things.

If, as Christopher Hitchens used to like to say, “we barely know what we don’t know”, then how utterly arrogant it would be to make such a universally negative claim? If there were no testimony whatsoever among humanity of supernatural experience, we still would not have an adequate sample size for this sort of statement; how much less so when the vast majority of human beings who have existed (including Hawking’s Christian wife) claim the opposite?

Drawing atheistic ontological conclusions from a man-made methodology would be very foolish indeed. Mankind’s tenancy on the earth has been barely the blink of an eye compared to the age of the universe. What if God is subtle, and obvious miracles are just rare? Hawking and Mlodonow, however, seem to have bought into this notion wholesale.

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Hawking at Universal Studios
Hawking at Universal Studios

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

Below is the seventh excerpt from my new bookWhat Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see the other parts of this article, go HERE:

The book does also feature a historical review of several important developments in science over the past few centuries, but aside from the aforementioned spin on the Hartle-Hawking model, the only things in it that seem truly new are mutually contradictory philosophical commitments (eg. Determinism, anti-realist Subjectivism) and a re-vamped nastiness towards spiritual matters).

When asked by Larry King what the most important point in The Grand Design is, Hawking answered “That science can explain the universe, and that we don’t need God to explain why there is something rather than nothing or why the laws of nature are what they are.” Again, notice that Hawking doesn’t seem to realize where the boundary between physics and metaphysics is here (or he is pretending not to).

Science only considers what the facts of nature might be. Questions of ultimate causes like “what caused nature to be” are deduced by logical inference and are firmly ensconced in the branch of philosophy known as “metaphysics”. Science cannot explain the source of the universe – it can only describe the universe and certain features thereof.

On page 135-136 of the book, the authors shamelessly abuse Richard Feynman’s “Sum Over Histories” mathematical method for calculating the probability of a subatomic particle arriving at one point from another. Feynman had never intended this to represent actual multiple universes arising simultaneously, but rather as a tool to calculate historical probabilities of individual particle travel. Nevertheless, the authors not only peddle this absurd claim, but they assert that “in this view, the universe appeared spontaneously from nothing”. (17) Once again, the causal principal is ignored.

Elsewhere in the book, they make the jarring claim that “because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing…”. (18) Whoah – doesn’t this put the “cart before the horse”?! I think it can be easily deduced that gravity (as well as the other fundamental forces) are features of the universe; not features that preceded the universe.

If gravity preceded the universe, where did gravity come from? Indeed, Hawking himself makes the statement on page 83 of the book that “the laws of nature in our universe arose from the big bang”. So which came first, the laws or the universe? And what happened to the universe appearing “spontaneously from nothing”? Geez – pick a story and stick with it, Steve – O!

To illustrate the incoherence of the assertion to Larry King quoted above (the notion that the universe arose from “nothing”), let’s take a look at the concept of “nothing” for a minute. The true philosophical description of nothing is “non-being”. I believe it was Aristotle who described nothing as being “what rocks dream about” (Aristotle was a theist, so he was speaking of the physical world — God is non-physical, so this was not meant to imply atheism). Keep this classical description of true “nothingness” in mind as we proceed forward.

“Nothing”, properly understood, has no matter, energy, time, or space – it can have no physical properties such as laws, or “instability” (as certain pseudo-philosophers and pseudo-scientists sometimes claim). Yet Hawking, in claiming that the universe could have arisen from “nothing” is equivocating between two different definitions of nothing.

In Quantum Physics, the term “nothing” is sometimes sloppily used to describe a fluctuating quantum field; that is, a space with a rich physical structure seething with energy. This is not “nothing” in the classical sense of the term (because it has space, matter, energy and is in time), but in recent years it has become fashionable for intellectually dishonest people to conflate these two concepts in order to support atheism.

The so-called “New Atheists” (who happen to all be terrible philosophers) come to mind. In these fluctuating quantum fields mentioned above, there seem to be quantum particles briefly disappearing and appearing – but it’s far from clear that they actually come into existence and cease to exist.

Quantum physicists differ on their interpretation of these phenomena. There are at least ten different physical interpretations of quantum phenomena, and new theories are being proposed due to the discoveries at the CERN super-collider as I write this. Nobody knows yet which of these models (if any) is the correct one.

Frankly, there are problems with all of them, including the Sum-Over-Histories and Many-Worlds variants that Hawking seems to favor (within an M-Theory narrative). Nevertheless, if we grant for the sake of discussion that particles can truly come into existence spontaneously from what these authors call “nothing” (19), but which is actually a fluctuating quantum field, does it help them? Nope!

A grand total of 0 (zero) quantum interpretations show that you get something from true nothing. The situation described above as “nothing” (the quantum vacuum), is actually within time and space, has a rich physical structure, and so is not a true nothing. This claim is simply linguistic slight-of-hand. The fact that Hawking has abandoned the ongoing discussion and thrown in with the “new atheist” types that peddle this type of shystery is rather disgraceful for a man who once sat in Isaac Newton’s chair at Cambridge.

17. p. 136
18. p. 180
19. p. 180

Hawking at Universal Studios
Hawking at Universal Studios

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

Below is the sixth excerpt from my new bookWhat Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) [available HERE for Kindle at just 99 cents] which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see the other parts of this article, go HERE:

Hawking pays homage to M-Theory (an 11-dimension harmonization of String Theories), but his colleagues don’t seem to be in agreement with him that there can be “no boundary” between being and non-being afforded by M-Theory.

On page 134 of The Grand Design, Hawking claims that in the early universe, “there were effectively four dimensions of space and none of time” (purportedly due to time-warping from the incredible density). Notice that he uses the hedge word “effectively”.

He goes on to say that “time as we know it did not exist”. Notice the hedge words “as we know it”. Then he makes the leap to claiming we can model this mathematically and asserts that there was therefore no boundary, but as we saw before, his math uses “imaginary numbers” which he refuses to use responsibly. This is unprofessional legerdemain, in my opinion, and thoroughly fails to avoid a beginning.

So we can see that although Hawking has a tremendous mind for mathematics, certain other disciplines seem more difficult for him. This is a fairly common thing, as even the venerated Albert Einstein once remarked, “The man of science is a poor philosopher” (and Einstein himself was not immune to this, as much of his work presupposed the now-discredited philosophy of Verificationism).

So to recap, at some time adjacent to the publication of A Brief History of Time, Hawking began vacillating back and forth between public statements suggesting that the universe began to exist and that it was past-eternal. He has not consistently held that time had no beginning however; for example, in a 1996 book he co-authored with Roger Penrose called The Nature of Space and Time, he made the memorable quote, “Today virtually everyone agrees that the universe and time itself had a beginning at the Big Bang.”(16) This idea of a finite past comports with what the vast majority of scientists and philosophers believe, as there is overwhelming evidence supporting it (we’ll get more into that later). On this finite view, time, space, matter and energy suddenly came into existence, and prior to that, none of the above existed.

But wait a minute — The Causal Principle requires there to be a cause for things that begin to exist! Since it is axiomatic that “from nothing, nothing comes”, this raises the question “what caused the universe to come into existence?” Notice that the classical Judeo-Christian description of God; a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, spirit being with omniscience and immense power, would fit the bill.

Some would reply to that “this is not a scientific answer”, but this answer bespeaks ignorance about the self-imposed limits of Science. Science describes nature. There are different opinions on where the boundaries of science lie (for more on this subject, do an internet search for “the demarcation problem”), but in every definition of “science”, metaphysical (“meta” = “over” or “beyond”) questions about what caused the universe are categorized as necessarily “pre-natural”. They are governed by the rules of logical inference (a subcategory of Philosophy) – and are not in the realm of science because they are logically prior to it.

Properly construed, Science is necessarily agnostic (ignorant) on questions about origins of the metaphysical, or the physical. To assume that God is not a possibility, given what we know, then, would be a flagrant bias. Perhaps Hawking sensed this subconsciously and therefore “hedged his bets” in the past (of course I’m speculating), but if so, that has now certainly changed with the stance he has taken in The Grand Design.

Steve Williams' photo

Honolulu Church & State Examiner

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

Below is the fifth excerpt from my forthcoming book What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see part 1 go HERE:

It’s important to note that Hawking had not substantially addressed any of the important published criticisms of the Hartle – Hawking model as of this writing, either prior to the release of The Grand Design, or in it. Nor is there any new science in it. Oddly enough, however, there is some slightly different language on the Hartle-Hawking theorem than that which was proposed in A Brief History of Time. In The Grand Design, the authors posit a beginning point for time on the south pole of their model:

The realization that time can behave like another direction of space means one can get rid of the problem of time having a beginning, in a similar way in which we got rid of the edge of the world. Suppose the beginning of the universe was like the South Pole of the earth, with degrees of latitude playing the role of time. As one moves north, the circles of constant latitude, representing the size of the universe, would expand. The universe would start as a point at the South Pole, but the South Pole is much like any other point. To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole. In this picture space-time has no boundary—the same laws of nature hold at the South Pole as in other places. (15)

In A Brief History of Time Hawking claimed that the Universe could just “be”. Here we see the authors alluding to a “starting point” in a cyclically repetitive model, but trying to avoid its implications by definition (“To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole”). I think that the authors are trying to hide “the elephant in the room” (the causal principal) behind the notion that cause and effect generally need time within which to operate. “If time had not begun yet”, the argument might go, “then how could Godhave operated to bring the universe into existence?” But God by definition is supernatural, so He’s not subject to the general requirements within which creatures in the universe operate. He may very well be transcendent to time (if He made time, why not?). Beyond that, time is generally understood as the progression of moments within a changing system. God may have had the plan to bring the universe into existence from eternity-past in a sort of “metaphysical (changeless) time”, and simply entered into interaction with time simultaneously with the creation of the universe. If it is, in fact, the question of the cause of the universe the authors mean to avoid here, it’s hard to imagine a more meaningful one.

So what if we just assume for the sake of discussion that the “spacetime cone”’s end is rounded off? As philosopher/theologian William Lane Craig points out, we still don’t have a past-eternal universe! Whether or not the theory uses the term “point”, and no matter how rounded the end is, there is always a boundary between being and non-being. One can try to “hedge” this with ever-more-spherical models, but no matter what shape you dream up, it’s not going to avoid having a beginning (or boundary). A rough analogy one could use to understand this point is a horse race; typically a single horse is the first out of the gate at the start of the race, but what if two or three horses get out first in an exact tie? In fact, what if the entire field gets out of the gate exactly simultaneously; do we have any less of a beginning? Of course not, and neither would we with the extremely speculative Hartle-Hawking model (if it were true).

Cosmologists use a term called “Cosmic Inflation” to describe what took place during what is known as “The Planck Time” (from 10 to the −36th power seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10 to the −33rd and 10 to the −32nd seconds after), when things were so small, dense and rapidly expanding that they are somewhat mysterious. But it seems to me that Hawking is exploiting this mysterious period to sell a viewpoint rather than to foment clarity. Relativity cannot adequately describe Cosmic Inflation because it is so close to the singularity (and thus so tiny) that it’s a quantum–scale event; Relativity can only describe larger-scale phenomena. One can try to incorporate Quantum Physics in conjunction with Relativity (as Hawking attempts to do), but there is no consensus on which interpretation of QM (if any) is valid, much less how to reconcile it with Relativity, so it remains a mystery. That being said, scientists have a variety of theories as to what may have been occurring, and the majority involve the time-frame I specified above. Of course, anything involving a time frame is necessarily in time, so I think it’s safe to say Hawking is in a tiny minority here.

15. pp. 134-5

Hawking at Universal Studios
Hawking at Universal Studios
Photo credit:
Universal Studios Hollywood via Getty Images

Rating for The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking:

0

Steve Williams' photo

Honolulu Church & State Examiner

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

World Premiere Specials Back to Back Saturday, June 9 at 8pm e/p and 9pm e/p

 

Below is the fourth excerpt from my forthcoming book What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see part 1 go HERE:

 

To paraphrase the atheist philosopher Richard Taylor, suppose we were walking along in the woods with someone and we came across a glowing ball, and we asked our companion “where did that come from?” If our companion answered “oh, that doesn’t have an origin; it just is, that’s all”, we would rightly pronounce their answer as implausible, if not downright ludicrous. I think that most adults know instinctively that things are either caused to exist (we can imagine many examples of this), or they exist necessarily (far fewer things are in this category — some philosophers would say it consists of only God; others might add “abstract objects” to the list). The requirement that causes must precede their effects (at least logically, if not also temporally) is known in philosophy as “The Causal Principle”. As certainly as we would instinctively rule out the glowing ball as existing uncaused and necessarily, it’s hard to imagine why we would qualify a larger object (such as a universe) as having these qualities. So why did Hawking “go there”?

 

In 1983, Hawking and UCSB physicist James Hartle developed what is now referred to as the Hartle-Hawking Quantum Gravity Model of the universe, in which the universe “has no beginning” because it“has no boundary” where time began. What does this model look like? If we imagine a graph of the universe’s expansion from an incredibly dense single point (hereinafter referred to as “the singularity”) based on the standard Big Bang model, it would look like a cone. The point of the cone on this model represents the beginning, and the expansion of the universe is represented by the increasing width as we progress through time. What Hawking engineered in the Hartle-Hawking Model, however, was a theorized “rounding” of the pointed end of the cone such that it resembled a badminton birdie rather than a cone. He introduced the term “no-boundary” model (but I think “disguised boundary” would have been more accurate). The process Hawking used to achieve this end was to employ what he called “imaginary numbers”. I’m glad he used this term, because I think it is an apt description.

 

“Imaginary numbers” have been used before by mathematicians to represent “time” in theoretical models involving its interaction with space. This is done to “grease” equations by treating it like a dimension of space, but the standard procedure is to interpret the imaginary numbers back to real numbers after the theoretical work is done. This is an important step, because contrary to the notion of “spacetime” popularized by science fiction, time is dissimilar to space in that it only goes in one direction – forward.

 

Many are confused on this point because Einstein began using the term “spacetime” in the early 1900’s (following the lead of mathematician Hermann Minkowski), but neither Einstein, nor anyone else had ever proven that time could behave like space in the sense of going backwards (or in any direction besides forward). In order to explain observational evidence, Einstein had theorized that the passage of time was relative to reference frames and therefore rejected the notion of absolute simultaneity between objects moving at substantially different speeds. The great Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz, however, had an alternative viewpoint; the view that measuring devices (as opposed to time itself) were warped by high velocities. Coincidentally, as I am writing this, ongoing observations at the CERN super-collider seem to have confirmed that neutrinos can move at speeds faster than light. If these results hold up, it disproves one of the “pillars” of Einstein’s Special Relativity, and in the process supports a Lorentzian interpretation of the data.

 

Going back to the Hartle-Hawking Model, the “imaginary numbers” they used are square roots of negative one (which don’t exist in the real world). Again, in a massive digression from standard procedure, Hawking refused to interpret the imaginary numbers back into real ones! When one does so, the singularity re-appears. If your hokum detector is on, it should be buzzing by now!

 

Hawking at Universal Studios
Hawking at Universal Studios
Photo credit:
Universal Studios Hollywood via Getty Images

Steve Williams' photo

Honolulu Church & State Examiner

On June 9 The Discovery Channel aired the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

World Premiere Specials Back to Back Saturday, June 9 at 8pm e/p and 9pm e/p

The following is the third excerpt from my forthcoming bookWhat Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should)which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see part 1 go HERE:

Although, as physicist Frank Tipler stated in a 2010 article, Hawking had provided “powerful valid theorems proving God’s existence” (by way of proving that the universe began to exist:(5), Hawking somehow became opposed to the most natural conclusions one could derive from his work. It’s not that he became an outright atheist, but he seemed to want to straddle the border between atheism and theism, perhaps to keep his options open. Since his 1988 book A Brief History of Time was somewhat difficult to read (one critic called it “the least-read bestseller of all time”) and contained mutually contradictory metaphysical statements, not too many came away from it with a strong idea of Hawking’s worldview. When asked by Shirley MacLaine whether he believed God had created the universe, Hawking replied simply “no”, but look at these other quotes from him, either within the book or around that time:

Then we shall… be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God. (6)

And

It is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws, but in that case, one would just have to go by personal belief.(7)

When asked by a reporter whether he believed that science and Christianity were competing world views, Hawking replied:

…then Newton would not have discovered the law of gravity. [He knew that Newton had strong religious convictions.] (8)

Discussing the unification of quantum mechanics with an understanding of gravity:

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? (9)

When commenting on quantum mechanics, Albert Einsteinhad stated that God “does not throw dice”. (10)

Hawking’s response to that:

God not only plays with dice, He sometimes throws them where they can’t be seen. (11)

On the idea of a sub-omniscient God:

The idea that God might want to change His mind is an example of the fallacy, pointed out by St. Augustine, of imagining God as a being existing in time. Time is a property only of the universe that God created. Presumably, God knew what He intended when He set it up. (12)

And:

I thought I had left the question of the existence of a Supreme Being completely open. . . It would be perfectly consistent with all we know to say that there was a Being who was responsible for all the laws of physics. (13)

In perhaps the most revealing statement from A Brief History of Time, Hawking stated:

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? (14)

Notice that this notion doesn’t attempt to answer the “ultimate metaphysical question” posed by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz a few hundred years ago, namely: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” We could grant Hawking’s presupposition above — that the universe “just is”— and we would still have a profound mystery on our hands. Namely, “why is it?”

5. http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/proving-the-existence-of-god/
6. A Brief History of Time. p. 175.
7. White and Gribbin, Stephen Hawking; A Life in Science, p. 167.
8. As quoted by Dr. Henry Schaefer in The Real Issue, November/December, 1994.
9. Schaefer, Henry, Science and Christianity, p. 59
10. Letter to Max Born, 4 December 1926
11. Schaefer, Henry, Science and Christianity, p. 60
12. Ibid, p. 61
13. Ibid, p. 60
14. A Brief History of Time, New York, Bantam, 1988, p. 141

Steve Williams' photo

Honolulu Church & State Examiner

On June 9 The Discovery Channel will be airing the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

World Premiere Specials Back to Back Saturday, June 9 at 8pm e/p and 9pm e/p

The following is the second excerpt from my forthcoming book: What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in Hawking’s bookThe Grand Design (from which this program was derived). To see part 1 go HERE:

Hawking’s contemporaries are not impressed with his latest offering. South African Cosmologist George Ellis (who worked with Hawking and Roger Penrose developing their singularity theorems) has been a Christian for a number of years, and finds Hawking’s position to be incoherent. Ellis, the current President of the International Society for Science and Religion argued in response to The Grand Design:

“Philosophy is not dead. Every point of view is imbued with philosophy. Why is science worth doing? The answer is philosophical… Science can’t answer that question about itself.”(2)

Another giant English mind, that of Professor Chris Isham (a philosopher and theoretical physicist at Imperial College London, who was described by Paul Davies as “Britain’s greatest quantum gravity expert”) was similarly unimpressed. “I groaned when I read this” Isham stated. “Stephen’s always saying this sort of thing… but I suspect he’s never read a philosophy book in his life.”(3)

Although much of the book is an incoherent mess, I’ve overheard it being discussed on a popular level as if it is significant. It seems to me that it’s therefore worthwhile to understand some of its propositions in their appropriate contexts. In order to do that properly, a little review of recent history is appropriate.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Hawking (in conjunction with Roger Penrose and George Ellis) shook the scientific world with the development and publication of his space-time singularity theorems. Evidence had been building for about half a century in support of what had come to be known as “The Big Bang theory” (a somewhat inaccurate name which had been derisively coined by Sir Frederick Hoyle in 1949), but a substantial portion of the scientific community had been resisting “conversion”. The metaphysical implications of a sudden beginning to the universe were very disturbing for those who had been proceeding on the assumptions of materialism, as it seemed to support Theism. As British Astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington once stated, “Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me.”(4)

With the discovery of the Big Bang’s microwave background radiation in 1964 (for which the discoverers earned a Nobel Prize), it was as if science had been teetering on a razor’s edge. The resistance to the Big Bang had become quite an uphill battle, and the reconciliation of Einstein’s Relativity with the motions of matter in the observed universe (which was addressed in the Hawking-Penrose Singularity Theorems) was the last set of puzzle pieces to make an overwhelming case. With the publication of the last of these, the case was effectively closed. Hawking and his colleagues had shown that when Einstein’s General Relativity is applied to the observable universe, it shows the mother of all “singularities” when you trace it back in time — an absolute beginning wherein time, space, matter and energy apparently began to exist from a single point. It then expanded outwardly from this point, creating space itself (!) as it proceeded. This was tough to accept for those who had presumed that the universe had existed eternally into the past and constructed worldviews based on that idea, but it was even harder to deny.

2. George Ellis, The Times, Friday September 3rd, 2010, p. 8.
3. Ibid.
4. S. Jaki, Cosmos and Creator, Regnery Gateway, Chicago, 1980, p. 5.

Steve Williams' photo

Honolulu Church & State Examiner

On June 9 The Discovery Channel will be airing the following program:

DOES STEPHEN HAWKING KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
HIS ‘GRAND DESIGN’ CONNECTS THE COSMIC DOTS ON DISCOVERY

World Premiere Specials Back to Back Saturday, June 9 at 8pm e/p and 9pm e/p

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t Know (But Should) which addresses the assertions in his book The Grand Design (from which this program was derived).

“You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose Free Will.”
— from “Freewill” by Rush

Stephen Hawking may be the most well-known mathematician of all time. He recently retired from the Lucasian Professorship at Cambridge University, which was a chair once occupied by Sir Isaac Newton, and which he held since 1979. He has endured through several decades with the debilitating disease ALS (also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) which has earned him the respect of many, both in and out of the scholarly community.

While I respect Hawking’s determination (and I honestly wish him the best, both here and hereafter), his assertions need to be weighed with the same careful scrutiny as those of others in the public sphere. In fact, I think it’s axiomatic that anyone who opines on ultimate metaphysical questions is bound to have their assertions analyzed to a degree that roughly correlates with their level of influence in the world. Since many people (including some who are very close to me) have deferred to Hawking as if his opinions are unquestionable, and I wholeheartedly disagree with that proposition, I will be challenging them in this book.

Any doubt that Hawking has opened the door to this should be allayed by a self-refuting philosophical statement from the second paragraph in his latest book (co-authored with CalTech physicist Leonard Mlodonow) The Grand Design: “Philosophy is dead” (p. 5). Unfortunately, it seems that Hawking’s formidable acumen for mathematics is not matched by a concomitant understanding of logic, as neither he nor his co-author seems to realize that this is a philosophical statement. Let’s look at the definition of the word “philosophy” from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. Love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline.

2. Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.[*Note: I bolded this sub-definition for emphasis, as it may be the one most relevantly ignored by Hawking/Mlodonow].

3. A system of thought based on or involving such inquiry: the philosophy of Hume.

4. The critical analysis of fundamental assumptions or beliefs.

5. The disciplines presented in university curriculums of science and the liberal arts, except medicine, law, and theology.

6. The discipline comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

7. A set of ideas or beliefs relating to a particular field or activity; an underlying theory: an original philosophy of advertising.

8. A system of values by which one lives: has an unusual philosophy of life.

Philosophy is dead?! That’s a pretty bold claim, and an insult to many of Hawking’s erstwhile colleagues at Cambridge, as well as professional academic philosophers worldwide. As a philosopher myself, I not only resent this remark, but I also resent the fact that this book seems: A) to have been slapped together from half-baked and self-referentially incoherent ideas, B) to be sprinkled throughout with snotty remarks about religion, and C) to be confusing people and causing them to think and say silly things.

Hawking and Mlodinow primarily attempt to answer three questions in this book:

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

2. Why do we exist?

3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

Strangely enough, # 2 gets “sucked into the vortex” of #1 and doesn’t really receive a separate answer. They give two mutually-contradictory “answers” to # 1, both of which are absurd on their face (more on those below). The answer to # 3 acknowledges that there is incredible fine-tuning in the universe (as we saw in chapter two), but appeals to a speculative unscientific explanation — a “multiverse” – as the explanation. The problem is that a multiverse, even if granted for the sake of discussion, itself begs the question of causation.

Look for Part 2, coming soon.

Very cool footage of an amazing creation. How do they keep their torso’s so damn still when both ends of their bodies are bobbing around?:

Evolution News & Views May 6, 2012 2:50 PM | Permalink

picture-of-Hummingbird-Video-300x197.jpg

Our friends at Illustra Media are working on a new film — this one about birds. We can’t wait. In the meantime, Illustra teases us with some stunning footage of a hummingbird feeding. Illustra’s blog aptly comments:

As you experience the awe of how the tiny bird maneuvers at such high speeds, consider by comparison how man was unable to achieve winged flight for many thousands and thousands of years. Not until the turn of the 20th century did we finally (and when measured against what we see in the video, quite clumsily in my opinion) defy gravity using a carefully manufactured giant apparatus. And over 100 years later our best designs today are still crude by comparison. There remains not a single piece of man-made engineering anywhere that rivals the features of design in this tiny seemingly nuclear powered biological life form.

The video brief was taken at 1/10 speed so every 20 seconds of what you see equals just 2 seconds of what you’d see in the wild. Gorgeous.

“Martyrs are Witnesses, . . . no other Religion was ever propagated by Witnesses, who had seen, and heard, and been every way conversant in what they witnessed concerning the Principles of their Religion; no Religion besides was ever preach’d by Men, who, after an unalterable Constancy under all Kinds of Sufferings, at last died for asserting it, when they must of necessity have known, whether it were true or false, and therefore certainly knew it to be true, or else they would never have suffer’d and died in that Manner for it.”

— Robert Jenkin
Evidence and Certainty of the Christian Religion (1734)

When I was working at H&R Block, I prepared the tax return for a Cuban exile who had an interesting story. He fled Cuba in an inner tube (!), and paddled his way to Florida while being circled by sharks. I didn’t ask him how long that took, but I’ll bet it was slow going! He was so happy to be in America, and had moved to Hawaii and eventually became the head greenskeeper at Waialae Country Club. If I remember correctly, he didn’t take any deductions; he was happy to keep about 70% after having no possessions all his life.

After having freedom for 236 yrs. here in America, we have a tendency to take it for granted. We need to remember that the Bible has it right — human selfishness rules the world, and tyranny is the prevailing tendency (unless it is tenaciously resisted). The other day I was listening to The Mark Levin Show, and another Cuban called in and told the story of his escape from Cuba in 1994 that was similar. The contrast his call elucidates between life under Castro, and life in the USA is very instructive. The spiritual dimension of it is: if you elect leaders who are essentially atheists (as demonstrated by the “fruit they bear”, and despite their rhetoric), they might very well use utopian promises as a “Trojan Horse” while they eliminate freedoms. Here is the recording of that call:

http://soundcloud.com/hirealtor/reiniras

January 12, 2012 Posted by vjtorley under Intelligent Design

Did the cosmos have a beginning? The Big Bang theory seems to suggest it did, but in recent decades, cosmologists have concocted elaborate theories – for example, an eternally inflating universe or a cyclic universe – which claim to avoid the need for a beginning of the cosmos. Now it appears that the universe really had a beginning after all, even if it wasn’t necessarily the Big Bang.

At a meeting of scientists – titled “State of the Universe” – convened last week at Cambridge University to honor Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday, cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston presented evidence that the universe is not eternal after all, leaving scientists at a loss to explain how the cosmos got started without a supernatural creator. The meeting was reported inNew Scientist magazine (Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event, 11 January 2012). I’ve quoted a few brief highlights below.

In his presentation, Professor Vilenkin discussed three theories which claim to avoid the need for a beginning of the cosmos.

One popular theory is eternal inflation. Most readers will be familiar with the theory of inflation, which says that the universe increased in volume by a factor of at least 10^78 in its very early stages (from 10^−36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10^−33 and 10^−32 seconds), before settling into the slower rate of expansion that we see today. The theory of eternal inflation goes further, and holds that the universe is constantly giving birth to smaller “bubble” universes within an ever-expanding multiverse. Each bubble universe undergoes its own initial period of inflation. In some versions of the theory, the bubbles go both backwards and forwards in time, allowing the possibility of an infinite past. Trouble is, the value of one particular cosmic parameter rules out that possibility:

But in 2003, a team including Vilenkin and Guth considered what eternal inflation would mean for the Hubble constant, which describes mathematically the expansion of the universe. They found that the equations didn’t work (Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/physrevlett.90.151301). “You can’t construct a space-time with this property,” says Vilenkin. It turns out that the constant has a lower limit that prevents inflation in both time directions. “It can’t possibly be eternal in the past,” says Vilenkin. “There must be some kind of boundary.”

A second option explored by Vilenkin was that of a cyclic universe, where the universe goes through an infinite series of big bangs and crunches, with no specific beginning. It was even claimed that a cyclic universe could explain the low observed value of the cosmological constant. But as Vilenkin found, there’s a problem if you look at the disorder in the universe:

Disorder increases with time. So following each cycle, the universe must get more and more disordered. But if there has already been an infinite number of cycles, the universe we inhabit now should be in a state of maximum disorder. Such a universe would be uniformly lukewarm and featureless, and definitely lacking such complicated beings as stars, planets and physicists – nothing like the one we see around us.

One way around that is to propose that the universe just gets bigger with every cycle. Then the amount of disorder per volume doesn’t increase, so needn’t reach the maximum. But Vilenkin found that this scenario falls prey to the same mathematical argument as eternal inflation: if your universe keeps getting bigger, it must have started somewhere.

However, Vilenkin’s options were not exhausted yet. There was another possibility: that the universe had sprung from an eternal cosmic egg:

Vilenkin’s final strike is an attack on a third, lesser-known proposal that the cosmos existed eternally in a static state called the cosmic egg. This finally “cracked” to create the big bang, leading to the expanding universe we see today. Late last year Vilenkin and graduate student Audrey Mithani showed that the egg could not have existed forever after all, as quantum instabilities would force it to collapse after a finite amount of time (arxiv.org/abs/1110.4096). If it cracked instead, leading to the big bang, then this must have happened before it collapsed – and therefore also after a finite amount of time.

“This is also not a good candidate for a beginningless universe,” Vilenkin concludes.

So at the end of the day, what is Vilenkin’s verdict?

“All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”

A supernatural Creator?

I’ve always been a bit leery of the kalam version of the cosmological argument, which says that since (1) whatever begins to exist has a cause, and (2) the universe began to exist, therefore (3) the universe has a supernatural cause. Of cousrse, I don’t doubt the first premise, and as Professor William Lane Craig, who is a noted defender of the argument, points out, neither did the skeptical philosopher David Hume. Hume wrote in 1754: “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause” (The Letters of David Hume, Two Volumes, J. Y. T. Greig, editor: (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), 1:187; quoted in Craig, Reasonable Faith, Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, revised edition, 1994, p. 93). And as philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe has pointed out, if you think about how you’d go about determining that an object which just appeared out of nowhere had actually come into existence or had just been very rapidly transported from some other place where it had existed previously, the only way you could settle the issue would be to identify something which was reponsible for generating it, as opposed to merely transporting it. In other words, you’d need to identify a cause. (In the case of virtual particles which come into and go out of existence over very short time periods, that cause is the quantum vacuum, which, because it has a specified energy level and can be described by scientific laws, is a genuine entity in its own right, pervading the universe of space.) In short: methodologically, there seems to be no way in principle of showing that something which appeared out of the blue actually came into existence without a cause, and our ability to imagine it doesn’t make it really possible (after all, I can imagine winged horses too).

But I’ve always been a bit doubtful about the second premise until now. Cosmologists themselves seemed to have lots of ideas as to how the universe might be eternal, and it seemed to me that as fast as one idea was refuted, another one sprang up.

So when I see a leading cosmologist such as Vilenkin admit that “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning,” I sit up and take notice.

Suppose Vilenkin is right. What follows then? The universe had some kind of cause – obviously not a natural cause, so you’d have to call it supernatural. But where does that take us?

A Personal Creator?

Professor William Lane Craig goes on to argue that this supernatural cause of the cosmos must be personal. According to Craig, every kind of explanation is either alogico-mathematical explanation (which, because it is abstract, is incapable of explaining the fact that something comes into existence), a scientific explanation (which can explain events occurring within the universe, but not the coming-to-be of the universe itself) or a personal explanation, involving an agent doing somrthing for a reason. Personal explanation is the only schema that can explain the coming-to-be of the cosmos, reasons Craig.

Professor Craig defends the notion of a personal Creator in a post entitled, Is the Cause of the Universe an Uncaused, Personal Creator of the Universe, who sans the Universe Is Beginningless, Changeless, Immaterial, Timeless, Spaceless, and Enormously Powerful?

See also the following:

Job Opening; Creator of the Universe by Professor Paul Herrick.
Background reading: Lecture notes and bibliography from Dr. Koons’ Western Theism course (Phil. 356). Highly recommended. Dr. Koons’ lecture notes provide an excellent overview of the cosmological argument, as well as replies to philosophical criticisms.

The evidence from fine-tuning

Those readers who are still unpersuaded by Craig’s arguments might like to consider the additional evidence (which I’ve summarized in recent posts of mine) for the reality of cosmological fine-tuning, not only within our universe, but even at the level of the multiverse. I’ve endeavored to explain why this fine-tuning points to an Intelligent Creator whose Mind is capable of creating a world of startling mathematical beauty:

Is fine-tuning a fallacy?
Is this the Dumbest Ever “Refutation” of the Fine-Tuning Argument?

“The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part One)
“The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part Two)
(Part Three is in the works, folks.)

So you think the multiverse refutes cosmological fine-tuning? Consider Arthur Rubinstein.
Why a multiverse would still need to be fine-tuned, in order to make baby universes

Beauty and the multiverse
Why the mathematical beauty we find in the cosmos is an objective “fact” which points to a Designer

What assumptions does the fine-tuning argument make about the Designer?

And beyond?

Finally, for those who want to go beyond scientific arguments, and get into the metaphysics of classical theism, I’d recommend this post:

Classical theism by Professor Edward Feser.

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Hat tip to UncommonDescent.com where I got the article from.

Steve Williams' photo

Honolulu Church & State Examiner

I was looking forward to reviewing video from last weekend’s “Reason Rally” in Washington D.C. in the hopes that for the first time in a long while a new argument would be offered in support of atheism. Unfortunately it was a letdown. Not only was it devoid of any new arguments (at least as far as I saw), but it was riddled with what leftists call “hate speech” and gutter-level profanity. I couldn’t help but be reminded of our own Honolulu village atheist, Mitch Kahle, who loves to bray like a jackass at public assemblies and ruin it for everyone else if his “unique” fantasies about separation of church and state aren’t being followed. On his youtube channel he also likes asking big brainy questions like “Anyone else notice that the word “Christ” has “s#it” in it?” “Birds of a feather”, I guess.

 

Anyway, as if to highlight their own hypocrisy, the rally featured videos from the mysogynist Bill Maher and the cowardly Richard Dawkins, both of whom have repeatedly declined to debate top-tier theologians and philosophers. In fact, Dawkins must have set some kind of record expending time and money avoiding a debate with my friend William Lane Craig (even as Craig deliberately steered his speaking tour to Dawkins’ hometown), and has been branded a hopeless coward by even the atheists in England. If these two are the featured speakers at any event, I think that fact alone speaks volumes.

 

That being said, here are some of the formal arguments for Theism which I have yet to see good arguments against. Let me know if I missed something in the rally footage:

 

Cosmological Argument

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Teleological Argument

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either law, chance, or design.

2. It is not due to law or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Moral Argument

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Biological “Software” (Genetic Information) Argument

1. The odds of the genetic information required to make a minimally complex single-celled creature arising by chance are 1 in 1041,000.

2. According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 1050 is mathematically impossible.

3. Therefore, a single-celled creature arising by chance is mathematically impossible.

Biological “Hardware” (Complex Structure) Argument

1. According to leading Darwinists, odds of humans evolving from a single-celled creature are 1 in 1024,000,000.

2. According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 1050 is mathematically impossible.

3. Thereofore, Darwinian evolution of human beings is mathematically impossible.

Noological (Existence of Minds) Argument

1. Even if one granted Darwinism, there is no reason we should be self-aware, and have free will.

2. We are conscious, self-aware, and have free will.

3. Therefore Darwinism is false.

The Predictive Prophecy Fulfillment Argument

1. There are about 2000 predictive prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled, many of which are messianic, and refer to the first coming of Jesus Christ.

2. The odds against just 48 of these being fulfilled by chance alone is about 1 in 10158.

3. According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 1050 is mathematically impossible.

4. Therefore, Christ’s fulfillment of these prophecies is supernatural.

The Resurrection of Jesus

1. There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth:

the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin

of his discples’ belief in his resurrection.

2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of

these facts.

3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God

revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Last weekend’s “Reason Rally”: a dinosaur’s mouth with a woodpecker’s backside – Honolulu Church & State | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/church-state-in-honolulu/last-weekend-s-reason-rally-a-dinosaur-s-mouth-with-a-woodpecker-s-backside#ixzz1qUGSmNL5

One of these groups is not like the others, one of these groups just doesn't belong.

Contrary to what most citizens have been conditioned to believe, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution. It comes from an exchange of letters in 1802 between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut. The concern at the time was to prevent the federal establishment of an official state church or national religious denomination. The Baptist Association sent a letter of praise to President Jefferson, commending him for his defense of the principle of freedom of religion. Jefferson replied:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter that lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (Emphasis added). See, Barton, David. Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion (Aledo: WallBuilder Press, 2000), pp. 45-46.

In 1947, in Everson v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court dusted off this metaphor of a “wall of separation between Church and State” and began misapplying it to strike down religious activities and expressions, which had been constitutional for the previous 150 years. (Barton, p.13). The metaphor of a “wall of separation” was not an original expression of Jefferson. It is a paraphrase of what the religious leader and founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, said many years before. Williams used a metaphor of “the garden and the wilderness.” As explained by Yale Law Professor, Stephen L. Carter:

“[T]he garden was the domain of the church, the gentle, fragile region where the people of God would congregate and try to build lives around the Divine Word. The wilderness was the world lying beyond the garden wall, uncivilized and potentially quite threatening to the garden. The wall separated the two, and the reason for the wall was not that the wilderness needed protection from the garden—the wall was there to protect the garden from the wilderness…”

“[I]t was the responsibility [of] the wilderness to stay out of the garden—not the other way around…The religion clause of the First Amendment is designed to limit what the state can do, not what the church can do…[The purpose of the wall was] not to keep the faithful in, but to keep the world out…We have turned poor Roger Williams inside out. The wall of separation is no longer for the protection of the people of the garden; it is for the protection of the people of the wilderness…The metaphor…has been inverted…So the wall of separation turns out to be not a garden wall but a prison wall, surrounding the church to keep the people of the garden inside, with barbed-wire escarpments, angled inward, lest the religious try to clamber over… ” (Carter, Stephen L. God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics, New York: Basic Books, 2000, pp. 75-81).

Full article here: http://citizensforprincipledgovernment.com/2008/03/the-original-meaning-of-separation-of-church-and-state-as-intended-by-the-founders-of-our-nation/

 

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We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.We believe in sex before during
and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated.
You can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes,
UFO’s and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha
Mohammed and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher although we think
his good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same,
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.

We believe that after death comes The Nothing
because when you ask the dead what happens
they say Nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it’s compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between
warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behaviour that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth
that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust. History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds.

Steve Turner

Excellent article on the rapture by Greg Koukl (str.org). If “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4) and the first resurrection is post-trib (Rev. 20: 5), then the rapture is necessarily post-trib:

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What is the apocalyptic event described in First Thessalonians 4 and First Corinthians 15? Perhaps not exactly what you think it is. .By: Gregory Koukl
Related articles:
Prophecy and Millennial MaddnessEnd Times PropheciesRelated product:
Scripture Alone
The Old Testament doesn’t talk about the Rapture. The New Testament just makes casual references to it. Some might suggest details like Daniel 9 and the missing week of Daniel’s prophecy.

I was raised in a strong pre-tribulation rapture environment. To put it simply, I was raised at the feet of Hal Lindsey, spiritually speaking. The first three years I studied at his Bible training center in Westwood Village, called the Jesus Christ Light and Power House. I got a lot of good teaching there, but the eschatological teaching we got was this teaching, so I am very familiar with the point of view. I actually accepted it somewhat uncritically because that was my background, until I began to do some study and I made a couple of observations.

The first observation I made was that this doctrine, the disappearance of the church seven years prior to the return of Christ, is not a doctrine that anyone in the history of the church ever held to until about 150 years ago. That was the first red flag. There might be justifiable explanations for that and some people make those explanations. But my question is, if the Bible teaches this, why didn’t anybody see it for almost 2000 years? All of the church fathers expected to see the Antichrist which would leave at least a mid-trib rapture. My suspicion was, the reason the church didn’t see it for 2000 years is because it wasn’t there. The information about the rapture actually came from a prophecy that was external to the Scriptures, the Plymouth Brethren prophecy. With that prophecy in place, people went back to the Scriptures and then began to see what they saw as hints of this doctrine in different passages.

 

divider

If the Bible teaches this, why didn’t anybody see it for almost 2000 years?

divider

 

The second observation is something that people said on a regular basis. They would say, regarding this issue of the rapture, that it’s not really clear when. There are no direct Scriptures that specifically teach when. They maintained that we have to draw simple inferences from the Scriptures and this is why you see these kind of convoluted systems meant to infer the pre-trib rapture or the mid-trib rapture from the text. I saw something entirely different when I actually went to the text itself.

We have to have a procedural question that is answered first. What is the foundation from which we approach any issue of theology? In a broad sense, it’s going to be the Bible. In order to understand inferences best, we are safest when we proceed from an explicit Biblical teaching. If we have an explicit Biblical teaching, then the rule of Analogy of Faith is applied. That is, we interpret the unclear in light of the clear. The question is, do we have some clear statements in the Scripture about the timing of the event that is commonly called the rapture? I think we do. We have two very explicit statements that clearly describe the event that most people call the rapture. 1 Thessalonians 4 and then 1 Corinthians 15. There are other verses that some say refer to the rapture, but these are the only two I know of that explicitly describe this event.

What is interesting about both of these passages, is that both passages say exactly when it’s going to happen. There is no ambiguity. 1 Thessalonians 4 says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, with a trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Then the next verse talks about being caught up with the Lord in the air. When does this happen? It happens at the coming of the Lord, according to verse 15. Then Paul says the dead in Christ shall rise first. Paul doesn’t call this event the rapture, which is our popular word. He calls it a resurrection. This is the resurrection that happens at the coming of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15 gives another description of what most people would acknowledge to be the same event, where in a moment, or the twinkling of the eye at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised imperishable and the living shall be changed and the mortal will put on immortality. We see some of the same language used in this passage and we see some more details about this event. Notice that in 1 Thessalonians 4 he was talking about a resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, the entire chapter is about resurrection. But he tells the timing of it in verse 23. It says, “but each in his own order, Christ at the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at his coming and then comes the end.”

We can’t start with a prophecy from the Plymouth Brethren and then try to read all this new doctrine we got from outside of the Bible into our Bible. I’m just trying to start with the text and see what it says. The text says that the resurrection that we call the rapture happens at the coming at Christ. It says it very clearly in verse 23. First Christ, then those that are his at his coming, and then comes the end. It couldn’t be plainer that the resurrection, this event that is called the rapture, described by these verses, happens at the coming of the Lord. That is foundational and it’s explicitly taught in the text.

Let’s try to pull this together. It is very important for us to start from a foundation of an explicit Biblical teaching on this issue so that we can build from there and take what is really clear and then answer the other objections based on what we know to be true from the clear text. We have two passages that give, by all counts, an explicit description of what has been called the rapture. Both accounts tell when it is going to happen. They say it is going to happen at the coming of the Lord. That is our explicit foundation. Both describe it, both tell when. Now the question becomes, which coming of the Lord does the author here, Paul, have in mind?

Here is my answer. The second coming. Not the third coming, not the one-and-a-half coming. The passages call it the coming of the Lord. Not a coming. They call it the coming of the Lord. I don’t know how it can be made more clear. It is very straight-forward. What some want to do is bring a lot of theology from the outside and twist the plain sense of those words. They say, “Well, he’s coming in the air.” What does that have to do with anything? In both cases, Paul calls it the coming of the Lord. And he says, right after that, then comes the end. That’s the order. The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 9 “In as much as Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him.” My point is that there are only two comings. The coming when Jesus accomplished the work of the cross, and the second coming.

We read about the second coming in Matthew 24. That is a visible, powerful and conclusive coming. He says everyone will be able to see Him, right? Paul says these events that are called the rapture happen at the coming of the Lord and the coming of the Lord, according to Jesus, is visible and there is only one second coming. This falls together so neatly, I don’t know why it isn’t more obvious to more people.

That leaves room for only one point of view, as far as I can see, from what the Scripture teaches. What is called the post-tribulation rapture. I don’t even like the term. I think we should teach what the text teaches and what the church has taught for 2000 years, that the resurrection happens when Jesus returns. It’s that simple.

 

 

For more information, contact Stand to Reason at 1438 East 33rd St., Signal Hill, CA 90755
(800) 2-REASON  (562) 595-7333  www.str.org

Counterfactuals


Terminology Tuesday:

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 11:30 PM PST

Counterfactuals: A conditional proposition (usually expressed in the form “if p, then q”) in which the antecedent (p) is false. Examples include such propositions as “If the moon was made of green cheese, then it would be tasty” and “If Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated, then racial reconciliation after the Civil War would have been advanced.” There is a vigorous debate over the status of counterfactuals that deal with free human actions, such as “If John had been offered a $5,000 bribe, he would have freely refused it.” Advocates of Molinism claim that such propositions have a truth value that God does not determine. They claim as well that God knows all such propositions and uses this knowledge in the providential governance of the universe. This allows God to control the outcome of events without impinging on human freedom.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 29.

by C Michael PattonSeptember 27th, 2009. From www.reclaimingthemind.org

Added to the “and other stupid statements series.”

 

 

During my ordination, one of the questions that I was asked by a seminary professor was “Are all sins equal in the sight of God?” I hesitated. Not because I did not have a strong opinion on this, but because I was not sure what the answer was that he was looking for. Are all sins equal in the sight of God? My ordination may have depended on the answer.

It is very common within popular evangelicalism to answer this question in the affirmative. This was one of the main assumptions in a book that I just recommended last week. Most find this theological concept very appealing and accept it, I am afraid to say, without doing much homework.

I think this tendency to assume that all sins are equal in the sight of God comes by means of three influences.

1) A reaction by Protestants against the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal sins (sins that kill justifying grace) and venial sin (sins of a lesser nature that do not kill justifying grace).

2) A tendency within our evangelistic church culture to express common ground with unbelievers—i.e., if all sins are equal in God’s sight, then your sin is not worse than any other. This way we are not coming across as judgmental or condescending.

3) Some biblical passages that have been interpreted in such a way (discussed below).

I don’t believe, however, that all sin is equal in God’s sight. I do believe that telling people that it is does serious damage to people’s understanding of the character of God and of the seriousness of certain sins. There are many reasons for this, but let me start with a reductio ad absurdum and them move to a biblical argument.

I often ask people who say that all sin is equal in the sight of God if they live according to their theology. Think about this. If all sin is really equal in the sight of God, and one really believes this, then God’s consternation and anger will be equal for whatever sin we commit. Equally important is the fact that our relational disposition before God should suffer equally from the conviction of the Holy Spirit for all sins. Most Christians understand what it means to have a conscience weighed down by unrepentant sin. But this weighing down normally only comes from those sins that we perceive to be more severe. If it is true, however, that all sin is equal in the sight of God and one actually lived according to that theology, then they should be just as troubled spiritually and just as repentant before God when they break the speed limit as when they commit adultery. After all, breaking the speed limit, even by 1 mph, is breaking the law and breaking the law is sin (Rom 13).

But nobody does this. We all see speeding down the road as water under the bridge of God. Apparently our conscience bears witness that it is not as bad as other things, even if we confess differently. Either that or the ability for our theology to actually affect the way we believe and think is non-functional in this situation.

Next (and more importantly) I think that it is biblical and necessary to say that some sins are more grievous in the sight of God than others. This also translates into the non-politically correct assumption that some people are sinners to a greater degree than others. Even though Protestants may not agree with the theology behind the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sins, there are many instances in the Scriptures where degrees of sin are distinguished.

1. Christ tells Pilate that the Jewish leaders have committed a worse sin than him, saying, “He who has handed me over to you has committed the greater sin” (Jn. 19:11, emphasis mine).

2. Certain sins in the law are distinguished in a particular context as an abomination to God, implying that others are not as severe (e.g. Lev. 18:22; Deut. 7:25, Deut. 23:18, Isa. 41:24).

3. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is set apart as a more severe sin than blasphemy of the Son (Matt. 12:31)

4. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists particular sins in such a way as to single them out because of their depraved nature, separating them from others.

5. There are degrees of punishment in Hell depending on the severity of the offense (Lk. 12:47-48).

6. Christ often evaluates the sin of the Pharisees as greater than the sins of others. You strain out a gnat while you swallow a camel (Matt. 23:24). If all sins are equal, Christ’s rebuke does not make any sense. (See also Lk. 20:46-47)

7. Similarly, Christ also talked about the “weightier things of the law” (Matt. 23:23). If all sins are equal, there is no law (or violation of that law) that is “weightier than others.” They are all the same weight.

8. Unforgiveness is continually referred to as a particularly heinous sin (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:23-35).

So where does this folk theology come from? Most people would refer to Christ’s comments in the Sermon on the Mount. Most particularly, reference is made to Matt. 5:27-28 as justification for this way of thinking.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28 27).

Is there a difference in the eyes of God between thinking about adultery and actually doing it? Absolutely. If we say anything other than this, I believe we do damage to God’s character and encourage the act based upon its premonition. The point Christ makes in Matt. 5:28 is not that lust and the actual act are equal, but that they both violate the same commandment, even if the degrees of this violation differ. Thus, Christ was telling people – and particularly the religious establishment of the day that thought they were safe because they had fulfilled the letter of the law – that the law runs much deeper. The spirit of the law is what matters. Therefore, if you have ever lusted, you have broken the sixth commandment. If you have ever hated your brother, you have broken the fifth commandment (Matt. 5:22). But, again, the breaking of the principles of the commandment is the issue, not the degree to which it is broken.

This is the same argument that James makes in Jam. 2:10 when he says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” He is not equating all sin, but showing how any violation of the law, no matter how small, is still breaking the whole of the law because the law is connected to such a degree.

Think about this (another reductio): if you believe that adultery and lust are equal in the sight of God, then here are the consequences: any man or woman can justify divorce based upon the fact that in Matt. 5:32 Christ condemns divorce except for marital infidelity. All they need to do is make the safe assumption that their spouse has lusted to some degree during their marriage. This will make their divorce justified and biblical. In the same way, if a man were to lust after a woman on the internet, he might as well commit the actual act since in God’s eyes he already has. Or (I am rolling), if you have ever lusted after a girl, then you are under God’s mandate to marry her since in God’s eyes you are one with her (1 Cor. 6:16).

I think that this way of thinking is not only wrong biblically, but it also has repercussions that lead to a distorted worldview and to discrediting the integrity of God and the Gospel of Christ.

It is true. All people are sinners (Rom. 3:23). All people are sinners from birth. But not all sin is equal.

I think this is a safe way to stay humble and accurately represent the biblical witness:

While not all people sin to the same degree, we all share in an equally depraved nature.

In other words, no one is less of a sinner because of an innate righteousness about which they can boast. All people have equal potential for depravity because we are all sons of Adam and share in the same depravity, even if we don’t, due to God’s grace, act out our sinfulness to the same degree.

If you disagree with this, just think—really think—about what you are saying about God. You are saying to an unbelieving world that your God is just as angry about the act of going 56 in a 55 as he is about the act of one who rapes and murders a six-year-old girl. Do you really want to go there? Do you really think this position is sufficiently supported to justify such a belief? Can you really defend it? If the Bible teaches it, fine: we go with the Bible and not with our emotions or palatability decoder. But I don’t believe that a viable case can be made for letting our theology argue for such a belief. I can’t think of many more things in Evangelical pop-theology that is more wrong, more damaging, or more misrepresentative of God’s character and the nature of sin.

I answered with the above answer during my ordination. I was relieved when I saw the approval of the ordination committee. They were all concerned that I might be one who, even with seminary training, retained this belief that most Evangelicals have. I have often wondered whether or not they would have passed me if I had answered according to the traditional Evangelical folklore, saying that all sins are equal in the sight of God.

Probably the biggest misconception that I encounter when defending the faith is the mistaken notion of what faith is. Today we are going to get to the bottom of what the Bible says faith is, once and for all. This post will be useful to Christians and atheists, alike.

What is faith according to the Bible?

I am going to reference this article from apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason in my explanation.

Koukl cites three Biblical examples to support the idea that faith is not blind leap-of-faith wishing, but is based on evidence.

  1. Moses went out into the wilderness and he had that first encounter with the burning bush, and God gave him the directive to go back to Egypt and let his people go. Moses said, Yeah, right. What’s going to happen when they say, why should we believe you, Moses? God said, See that staff? Throw it down. Moses threw it down and it turned into a serpent. God said, See that serpent? Pick it up. And he picked it up and it turned back into a staff. God said, Now you take that and do that before the Jewish people and you do that before Pharaoh. And you do this number with the hail, and the frogs, and turning the Nile River into blood. You put the sun out. You do a bunch of other tricks to get their attention. And then comes this phrase: “So that they might know that there is a God in Israel.”
  2. [I]n Mark 2 you see Jesus preaching in a house, and you know the story where they take the roof off and let the paralytic down through the roof. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people get bugged because how can anyone forgive sins but God alone? Jesus understood what they were thinking and He said this: What’s harder to say, your sins are forgiven, or to rise, take up your pallet and go home? Now, I’ll tell you what would be harder for me to say : Arise, take up your pallet and go home. I can walk into any Bible study and say your sins are forgiven and nobody is going to know if I know what I am talking about or not. But if I lay hands on somebody in a wheelchair and I say, Take up your wheelchair and go home, and they sit there, I look pretty dumb because everyone knows nothing happened. But Jesus adds this. He says, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has the power and authority to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and he got out. Notice the phrase “In order that you may know”.  Same message, right?
  3. Move over to the Book of Acts. First sermon after Pentecost. Peter was up in front of this massive crowd. He was talking about the resurrection to which he was an eyewitness. He talked about fulfilled prophecy. He talked about the miraculous tongues and the miraculous manifestation of being able to speak in a language you don’t know. Do you think this is physical evidence to those people? I think so. Pretty powerful. Peter tells them, These men are not drunk as it seems, but rather this is a fulfillment of prophecy. David spoke of this. Jesus got out of the grave, and we saw him, and we proclaim this to you. Do you know how he ends his sermon? It’s really great. Acts 2:36. I’ve been a Christian 20 years and I didn’t see this until about a year ago. This is for all of those who think that if you can know it for sure, you can’t exercise faith in it. Here is what Peter said. Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” There it is again. “Know for certain.”

What is faith according to Bible-based theologians?

I am going to reference this article from theologian C. Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen in my explanation.

Patton explains that according to Reformation (conservative, Bible-based) theologians, faith has 3 parts:

  1. notitia – This is the basic informational foundation of our faith. It is best expressed by the word content. Faith, according to the Reformers must have content. You cannot have faith in nothing. There must be some referential propositional truth to which the faith points. The proposition “Christ rose from the grave,” for example, is a necessary information base that Christians must have.
  2. assensus – This is the assent or confidence that we have that thenotitia is correct… This involves evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of the proposition… This involves intellectual assent and persuasion based upon critical thought…assensus… says, “I am persuaded to believe that Christ rose from the grave.”
  3. fiducia – This is the “resting” in the information based upon a conviction of its truthfulness. Fiducia is best expressed by the English word “trust.”… Fiducia is the personal subjective act of the will to take the final step. It is important to note that while fiducia goes beyond or transcends the intellect, it is built upon its foundation.

So, Biblical faith is really trust. Trust (3) can only occur after intellectual assent (2), based on evidence and thought. Intellectual assent (2) can only occur after the propositional information (1) is known.

The church today accepts 1 and 3, but denies 2. I call this “fideism” or “blind faith”. Ironically, activist atheists, (the New Atheists), also believe that faith is blind. The postmodern “emergent church” denies 1 and 2. A person could accept 1 and 2 but deny 3 by not re-prioritizing their life based on what they know to be true.

How do beliefs form, according to Christian philosophers?

I am going to reference a portion of chapter 3 of J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God With All Your Mind” (i.e. – LYGWYM).

J.P. Moreland explains how beliefs form and how you can change them.

  1. Today, people are inclined to think that the sincerity and fervency of one’s beliefs are more important than the content… Nothing could be further from the truth… As far as reality is concerned, what matters is not whether I like a belief or how sincere I am in believing it but whether or not the belief is true. I am responsible for what I believe and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.
  2. A belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain ,evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you… The more certain you are of a belief… the more you rely on it as a basis for action.

But the most important point of the article is that your beliefs are not under the control of your will.

…Scripture holds us responsible for our beliefs since it commands us to embrace certain beliefs and warns us of the consequences of accepting other beliefs. On the other hand, experience teaches us that we cannot choose or change our beliefs by direct effort.

For example, if someone offered you $10,000 to believe right now that a pink elephant was sitting next to you, you could not really choose to believe this… If I want to change my beliefs about something, I can embark on a course of study in which I choose to think regularly about certain things, read certain pieces of evidence and argument, and try to find problems with evidence raised against the belief in question.

…by choosing to undertake a course of study… I can put myself in a position to undergo a change in… my beliefs… And… my character and behavior… will be transformed by these belief changes.

The article goes on to make some very informative comments on the relationship between apologetics and belief.

From: http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/does-the-bible-teach-that-faith-is-opposed-to-logic-and-evidence-3/

This is a very well-written piece on the problems with Calvinism, and the elegant solution of Molinism for reconciling God’s will and human will with scriptural data. It may be difficult to grasp some of the concepts on the first read, but be patient, look up the words you don’t understand, and read it again if you need to; it’s worth it:

Question:

Dr. Craig,

I am troubled at the mass amount of calvinists I see who are incredibly intelligent and trustworthy christian leaders. What I mean is that, So many seem to be capable of great analysis (far beyond myself), but seem to stick their head in the sand when it comes to the problem of evil. If they don’t, then they tend to make God a self-contradicting being. Why do you think this is so?

Im also personally troubled at how few leaders I see subscribing to molonism. It seems to me that it answers the most questions and creates the least problems. I understand it can be complex, but I wouldn’t think we would just rest with the problem of evil not being satisfied. I don’t base what I believe on the beliefs of others, but we can’t ignore the influence others have in our lives, or the desire to have a home with others when it comes to these thoughts.

Anyway, I would enjoy your thoughts… as I always do.

Thanks,

Gordon

 

Dr. Craig responds:

I think you’re right, Gordon, that a great many intelligent and godly Christian leaders are Reformed, or followers of John Calvin, in their theology. I’m currently participating in a four-views book on divine providence along with a pair of Reformed theologians. It is evident from their contributions that, despite the intellectual puzzles raised by the Reformed view, they both embrace it because they are convinced that it most faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture on the subject, Scripture being the only authoritative rule of faith.

Actually, I have no problem with certain classic statements of the Reformed view. For example, the Westminster Confession (Sect. III) declares that

God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

Now this is precisely what the Molinist believes! The Confession affirms God’s preordination of everything that comes to pass as well as the liberty and contingency of the creaturely will, so that God is not the author of sin. It is a tragedy that in rejecting middle knowledge Reformed divines have cut themselves off from the most perspicuous explanation of the coherence of this wonderful confession.

By rejecting a doctrine of divine providence based on God’s middle knowledge, Reformed theologians are simply self-confessedly left with a mystery. The great 17th century Reformed theologian Francis Turretin held that a careful analysis of Scripture leads to two indubitable conclusions, both of which must be held in tension without compromising either one:

that God on the one hand by his providence not only decreed, but most certainly secures, the event of all things, whether free or contingent; on the other hand, however, man is always free in acting and many effects are contingent. Although I cannot understand how these can be mutually connected together, yet (on account of ignorance of the mode) the thing itself is (which is certain from another source, i.e., from the Word) not either to be called in question or wholly denied (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1: 512).

Here Turretin affirms without compromise both the sovereignty of God and human freedom and contingency; he just doesn’t know how to put them together. Molinism offers a solution. By rejecting that solution, the Reformed theologian is left with a mystery.

There’s nothing wrong with mystery per se (the correct physical interpretation of quantum mechanics is a mystery!); the problem is that some Reformed theologians, like my two collaborators in the four-views book, try to resolve the mystery by holding to universal, divine, causal determinism and a compatibilist view of human freedom. According to this view, the way in which God sovereignly controls everything that happens is by causing it to happen, and freedom is re-interpreted to be consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself.

It is this view, which affirms universal determinism and compatibilism, that runs into the problems you mention. Making God the author of evil is just one of the problems this neo-Reformed view faces. At least five come immediately to mind:

1. Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. The classical Reformed divines recognized this. They acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom. Determinists reconcile universal, divine, causal determinism with human freedom by re-interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms. Compatibilism entails determinism, so there’s no mystery here. The problem is that adopting compatibilism achieves reconciliation only at the expense of denying what various Scriptural texts seem clearly to affirm: genuine indeterminacy and contingency.

2. Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed. There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.

3. Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility. In contrast to the Molinist view, on the deterministic view even the movement of the human will is caused by God. God moves people to choose evil, and they cannot do otherwise. God determines their choices and makes them do wrong. If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then on this view God is not only the cause of sin and evil, but becomes evil Himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed. For our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them. We cannot be responsible for our actions, for nothing we think or do is up to us.

4. Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency. Since our choices are not up to us but are caused by God, human beings cannot be said to be real agents. They are mere instruments by means of which God acts to produce some effect, much like a man using a stick to move a stone. Of course, secondary causes retain all their properties and powers as intermediate causes, as the Reformed divines remind us, just as a stick retains its properties and powers which make it suitable for the purposes of the one who uses it. Reformed thinkers need not be occasionalists like Nicholas Malebranche, who held that God is the only cause there is. But these intermediate causes are not agents themselves but mere instrumental causes, for they have no power to initiate action. Hence, it’s dubious that on divine determinism there really is more than one agent in the world, namely, God. This conclusion not only flies in the face of our knowledge of ourselves as agents but makes it inexplicable why God then treats us as agents, holding us responsible for what He caused us and used us to do.

5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. On the deterministic view, the whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through His love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, the deterministic view, I’m convinced, denigrates God for engaging in a such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that He would create beings which are in every respect causally determined by Him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions He made them do or loving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame. I’m certain that Reformed determinists, in contrast to classical Reformed divines, will bristle at such a comparison. But why it’s inapt for the doctrine of universal, divine, causal determinism is a mystery to me.

So why do so many intelligent and faithful Christian leaders buy into Calvinism? I think that the sort of Calvinism represented by the statement quoted above from the Westminster Confession is a fair summary of Scripture’s teaching and therefore should be believed. It’s only when one goes beyond it to try to resolve the mystery by embracing determinism and compatibilism that one gets into trouble. So insofar as these Christian leaders are content to remain with the mystery, I think theirs is a reasonable position. The vast majority of them have probably little understanding of Molinism and so are just insufficiently informed to make a decision. A few years ago I spoke at Westminster Seminary in San Diego on middle knowledge, and half way through the Q & A period following my talk, one of the faculty said, “I’m embarrassed to say, Dr. Craig, that we aren’t even able to discuss this with you because we just are completely unfamiliar with what you’re talking about.” He was embarrassed that as a professional theologian he was so ignorant of these debates. By contrast, some theologians who belong to the Reformed tradition have moved toward Molinism. When I gave the Stob lectures at Calvin College and Seminary, I was shocked when the theologians at the seminary told me that they were all Molinists! I increasingly encounter people who are moving in the Molinist direction (both from the Calvinistic end and the open theist end of the spectrum!)

So don’t be too hard on our Calvinist brethren. Offer them something better, and hope that they will embrace it.

For more great Q & A with Dr.Craig, go to: www.reasonablefaith.org.

By: Staff
Discovery Institute
January 6, 2012

For Immediate Release Jan. 6, 2012

Discovery Institute

East Coast: Sam Wall

samw@discovery.org, 704-989-9068

West Coast: Andrew McDiarmid

andrewm@discovery.org, 206-292-0401 x155

 

Media Alert: Rick Santorum, the Santorum Amendment

and Intelligent Design

 

With his near-win in Iowa and his recent rise in the polls, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is facing new scrutiny about his views on intelligent design and evolution. Reporters and others have expressed particular interest in the so-called “Santorum Amendment” offered by Senator Santorum during debates on the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. This media backgrounder was prepared by Discovery Institute to answer questions about the Santorum Amendment, intelligent design, and the debate over evolution. Discovery Institute spokespersons are available for interviews.

 

The Santorum Amendment

In 2001, Sen. Rick Santorum offered the following “Sense of the Senate” resolution as part of the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act:

 

“It is the sense of the Senate that— (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the

subject.” Congressional Record, June 13, 2001, p. S6148.

 

The resolution passed by an overwhelming margin of 91-8. The language was later revised and included in the Conference Report adopted by Congress when it enacted the No Child Left Behind Act. The final language states:

 

 

“The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.” 2001-107th Congress-1st Session-House of Representatives Report-107 334 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1.

 

 

A letter by Senator Santorum, Senator Judd Gregg, and Rep. John Boehner explaining the meaning and impact of the Santorum Amendment is available for download here.

 

Key facts about the Santorum Amendment

 

  • The Santorum Amendment won overwhelming bipartisan support in the United States Senate. In fact, Sen. Ted Kennedy enthusiastically endorsed the Amendment on the Senate floor. Others voting in favor of the Amendment included Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Harry Reid, Senator John McCain, and Senator Sam Brownback. See Congressional Record, June 13, 2001, p. S6153.

 

  • The Santorum Amendment (in both its original and revised version) did not mandate teaching intelligent design, nor did it encourage teaching creationism or religion in the classroom. Instead, it encouraged open discussion and inquiry by teachers and students.

 

  • The approach advocated by the Santorum Amendment is favored by the vast majority of Americans, no matter what their race, gender, or political party. According to a nationwide Zogby poll in 2009, 80 percent of likely voters “agree that teachers and students should have the academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory,” while 78 percent of likely voters agree with the statement, “Biology teachers should teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.”

 

What is intelligent design?

Intelligent design is the theory that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process like natural selection.

 

Is intelligent design the same as creationism?

No. Intelligent design as a scientific theory limits itself to what can be learned from the empirical data of nature. It does not rely on sacred texts.

 

Is intelligent design necessarily incompatible with evolution?

No. Intelligent design is logically compatible with many kinds of evolution, but not with the specifically Darwinian claim that evolution is a blind and undirected process.

 

Do intelligent design proponents want to mandate the teaching of intelligent design?

No. Discovery Institute, the leading institutional proponent of intelligent design, opposes efforts to mandate intelligent design in public schools. In fact, it publicly opposed the policy targeted in the Kitzmiller v. Dovercase even before it was challenged in court.

 

For answers to more questions about intelligent design, please visithttp://www.intelligentdesign.org/faq.php.

 

 

About Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute has been described as “the nation’s leading intelligent think tank” by the science journalNature. Its Center for Science and Culture (launched in 1996) has more than 40 affiliated scientists and scholars with Ph.D.s in astronomy, physics, biology, biochemistry, mathematics, philosophy of science, government, and related fields. Discovery Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit, educational and research organization, and it does not support or oppose candidates for public office. For more information visit the Center’s Evolution News & Views website at www.evolutionnews.org.